Drape Your Holiday Bird in This Two-Ingredient Sauce

Drape Your Holiday Bird in This Two-Ingredient Sauce

Steaks often get finished with a compound butter, but poultry deserves a special butter of its own. After the holiday bird gets sliced and plated, it’s all on its own — left to speak for itself and rely on what is, hopefully, a fantastic preparation method. As an offering that complements (or saves) every version of poultry out there, serve your guests a bird draped in fried sage and salted browned butter, an ultra simple finishing sauce with heaps of flavour.

Gravy can be lovely, but not everyone likes thick, gloppy sauce. On the cook’s end, it can be easy to foul-up, and can sometimes lack flavour. Plus, there’s all that whisking, and roux-ing, and waiting for pan drippings. I’m already tired. This fried sage butter sauce is quick to prepare, and tremendously flavorful. The sage is aromatic but more mellow than an uncooked sprig, and browned butter is in a league of its own. It’s nutty, with toasted flavours combined with nearly caramel tones, and of course, it’s still salty butter. You can do it days in advance, and it boasts such pronounced flavours, that each serving only needs a small spoonful. If you’re worried about how dry turkey or chicken can get after roasting, this butter sauce is an easy way to dress it up with some moisture just before serving. As an added perk, it’s even good chilled as a spreadable option for rolls (which is a big bonus point considering that cold-gravy-jiggle leaves me feeling uncertain, at best).

Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Start by melting and browning a stick of salted butter in a small saucepan or pot over medium heat. If you only have unsalted butter, it’s perfectly acceptable to stir in a ¼ – ½ teaspoon of salt at the end. The butter will be pale yellow as it bubbles and foams, and you’ll begin to see the milk solids settle to the bottom of the pot. Swirl or stir occasionally. Once you start noticing the foam turning a light brown hue, toss in a handful of fresh sage leaves. Stir the sage in, so every leaf begins to fry evenly. Flip them as needed to ensure they’re completely fried, about one or two minutes. Take the pan off the heat. The sage will curl up and feel brittle. Don’t worry if they break; that’s the plan anyway. The butter browns in about five to seven minutes and the sage fries in about one or two minutes; giving you a 95% finished sauce in under 10 minutes. Not bad at all.

Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

At this point, you have options. You can pour this butter into a serving dish and keep the sage in whole — or nearly whole — pieces. If you want more sage coverage in each spoonful, but like the idea of seeing recognisable bits of sage, manually break up the fried sage with a spoon in a measuring up or small bowl and serve. For ultimate coverage in each spoonful, let the butter cool for five to 10 minutes. Pour the butter sauce into a measuring cup and use an immersion blender to pulse three or four times. That will be sufficient to break the sage into tiny bits. This is my preferred presentation because I like the sage bits to get around in all the crevices of my roast. Spoon over slices of your roast, and serve. Any remaining sauce can be poured into a small jar and placed on the table as a condiment for guests to spoon over their plates as they wish.

This sauce is absolutely bonkers on turkey, chicken, duck, or any bird you’re working with, but I would be irresponsible if I didn’t mention how good it is on beef and pork, too. Beyond meats, absolutely consider tossing roasted squash in it once they come out of the oven. This recipe can be doubled or tripled. One stick of butter will yield just shy of half a cup of butter sauce. Store the leftover sauce, covered, in the fridge for up to a month.

Fried Sage in Salted Browned Butter


  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • Handful of sage leaves (about 20-30)

Cut a stick of butter into small pieces and place in a medium saucepan or pot. Melt the butter over medium heat and swirl occasionally. Let the butter continue to cook until it begins to brown. Add the sage leaves to the butter and stir for one to two minutes, until all of the sage becomes curled and crispy. Take the pan off the heat and let it sit for five to ten minutes. Break up the sage into medium to small bits, as you like. Drape over meats, toss with vegetables, or serve as a condiment alongside the meal in a small bowl or jar.


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