Something with a fancy French name, like Beurre Blanc, tends to be pretty intimidating to many people. I don’t really blame those people; the French for all of their contributions to the culinary world were not simple. Their flavors tend to be complex and their techniques to get those flavors are similarly involved (all of which I love). Amy routinely has to reign in some of my ingredient selections though and finds my love of tackling of some of these recipes funny, given my inability to multi-task in the kitchen. But, I figured I would take a run at teaching myself something new for a date night.
Beurre Blanc sounds like something fairly simple, its just a creamy butter sauce right? Wrong! There is a specific process for how and when you add butter that develops the sauce into the rich, thick sauce you are familiar with. This involves first reducing a mixture of wine, vinegar, and something from the onion family. Then adding cream. And finally adding a lot of butter slowly in batches while carefully managing heat.
This technique isn’t always what you would think of when making a sauce. Normally, you sweat the onions first in oil or butter and then deglaze with acid. In this technique, that gets thrown out. You start by concentrating flavor by boiling off acid. So all of your fatty ingredients then go it at the end, which helps to really give you the rich sauce you expect. Just remember to add the butter in pieces and manage the heat, you don’t want it to curdle or boil but melt and thicken gently.
My Beurre Blanc broke a bit from the traditional mold. In a classic sauce, the recipe calls for shallot, white wine, white wine vinegar, and the dairy. For mine, I wanted to get some deeper flavor right in the sauce. So I used Leek in place of the shallot, dill, some lemon-infused champagne vinegar, and then some lemon slices. This resulted in a rich, but bright sauce.
Pairing Beurre Blanc
So, how should you use Beurre Blanc? The most common use is as a sauce for fish, where the richness compliments a nicely seared filet. Another option would be over a roast chicken. In general, its a good sauce where the protein is cooked in a way that makes a topping sauce a good option. Think simply cooked meat, where you developed a nice crust but basic flavors. This is a good use, since you need to watch a beurre blanc and simple meat doesn’t as much attention.
I paired it with a simply seared Sockeye Salmon or Chilean Sea Bass steak. I like the salmon a little better because of the contrast in colors, but that was solely a photographic preference. As a side pairing, I went with an Instant Pot Risotto (with the salmon I mixed it up with a Sun-dried Tomato Risotto, post to come for that later). This risotto is great because you set it on first and forget it, everything else cooks in the time that takes!
Beurre Blanc Sauce with Sockeye Salmon
- 1 Lb Salmon Filet cut into portion-sized pieces
- 1/2 Leek Cut into thin crescents
- 2 Sprigs Dill
- 1/4 Cup White Wine
- 1/4 Cup Champagne Vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 1 Lemon zested and sliced
- 1/3 Cup Heavy Cream
- 6-8 Tbs Butter
- Salt & Pepper to taste (preferably use white pepper)
- Combine the leek, wine, and vinegar in a ~10 inch skillet. Salt and Pepper at this stage.
- Reduce over medium heat until most of the liquid is consumed.
- Add in the cream, lemon zest, and lemon slices (salt and pepper again). Allow to come to a simmer.
- Reduce heat to low and add the butter 1 Tbs at a time but adding the next piece just before the previous one is fully melted, whisking it in constantly. Watch the heat during this phase. If need be remove the pan from the heat to control. You want the butter to melt readily and the sauce to the thicken but you don't really even want the sauce at a simmer.
- The sauce should be fairly thick at the end, think a creamy caesar salad consistency.
- Heat 1 Tbs butter in a skillet over high heat.
- Pat dry and salt/pepper the salmon.
- Sear it skin side up for about 4 minutes.
- Flip it so its skin-side down and turn off the heat to let it finish cooking.