Friday, March 12, 2010

Julia Child's Beurre Blanc

For the past few months, I've been a little more obsessed than usual about cooking. It started when my husband and I went to go see Julie and Julia a little while before the baby was born. We both loved the movie, and it inspired me to be a little more adventurous in the kitchen.

I've always loved to cook, but I've historically been rather timid when it comes to sauces. I tended to make a very good, but very safe, bechamel (and its variations) over and over again. This has changed! I have discovered that sauces are really quite simple, and so I've been charting new territory (for me) in the sauce department.

As part of my culinary inspiration, I've been reading Julia Child's My Life in France (even better than the movie!). If that book doesn't make you want to cook (or at least eat) really well, nothing will!

Sauce Beurre Blanc
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth ( I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
1 tablespoon finely minced shallots or scallions
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
8 to 12 ounces [1 to 1 1/2 cups, or 2 to 3 sticks]
chilled best-quality unsalted butter, cut into 16 or 24 pieces

1. Begin by boiling the liquids.
2. Add the shallots and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Continue to simmer on a low heat until most of the liquid has evaporated.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Add butter to this mixture a piece or two at a time, taking time after each addition to whisk the mixture vigorously until the butter has been completely absorbed into the sauce before adding more butter.

The secret to getting sauces right is having all of the ingredients prepared ahead of time! Now when I cook I try to always have everything chopped and portioned ahead of time in little containers - it makes a world of difference!

Now, beurre blanc is amazing with fish, and I had two sea bass fillets that had been sitting in the freezer for weeks. You see, I can count on one hand the number of times that I ate fish at home as a child, and I've always been afraid of it. It always seemed like it would be immensely complicated.

Sea Bass Fillets with Mushrooms- Inspired by Julia, but with some revisions.
2 teaspoons butter
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
2 fillets of fish
salt and white pepper
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon (Julia wants you to use 2/3 cup white wine and 1/3 cup fish stock)
1 c thinly sliced crimini mushrooms (I just think they look better on the fish than white mushrooms).

1. Set pan over medium heat and add butter.
2. Sprinkle shallots and cook slowly to soften without colouring.
3. Remove from heat
4. Season fillets on both sides with salt and pepper.
5. Lay in pan skin side down (where skin used to be - the skin should be removed)
6. Pour in lemon juice (should be enough to cover fish 1/2 way).
7. Lay sliced mushrooms over the fillets.
8. Put parchment paper over the pan.
9. Put on lid and bring liquid to a simmer and hold for 5 minutes. Make sure fish is cooked throughout. Serve topped with the beurre blanc.

Now, Julia's recipe (which is for sole) calls for fish stock and 2/3 cup wine, rather than the lemon juice. I'm sure she's rolling in her grave, but I didn't happen to have any fish stock lying around, and I wasn't about to use another 2/3 cup wine in the fish. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, this was the first time I've cooked fish, and I've never had ANY fish that I really liked, so I thought the lemon juice might make it less fishy.

Well, I will stand by my own recipe for two reasons: firstly, I LOVED it. Amazing! If I do say so myself. I have no more fear of cooking fish! Secondly, even though I used the juice of 1/2 lemon, the fish did not have an overpowering lemon flavour. At all.

Now, I'm a lousy food blogger, because I have no pictures. It looked so good, and we ate it immediately. Well, almost immediately - I had my dear husband stand in the kitchen and stir the sauce for about 20 minutes while I fed the baby and put her to sleep! So, you'll have to use your imaginations, or better yet, make your own beurre blanc!

Oh, one more thing: this is a really rich sauce. I'm not sure how Julia managed to tuck into 1/2 cup of butter at a sitting, but we had a couple of tablespoons of sauce each and I ended up feeling just a wee bit ill. A cup of tea took care of that, but I'm going to have to work on my butter tolerance, as it appears I'm a bit of a lightweight in the beurre department.

Bon Appetit!


Thorsprincess said...

Oh dear, I need to set the record straight. As it happens, I used to make a positively indulgent sole amandine that was one of my best company dishes as a young bride. Unfortunately, your father refused to eat fish--any fish--except batter-fried fish and chips in a restaurant. So my lovely fishes were no longer welcome in our house. Hence, you never ate any fish at home. He used to go fishing, but he gave the fish away, because he didn't want me to cook it! So, you never ate any fish at home. I am so glad that you have finally discovered just how delicious butter and lemon are with delectable fish! Congratulations to you--and to your sweet husband for stirring the beurre blanc!!

M.Kate said...

wow :) a recipe post but it was fun to read it and better..if I could eat it. Certainly worth trying out :()