I was talking to a good friend of mine last week, who is also a chef. After telling him about the salmon column and the various ideas I mentioned, he said I was missing perhaps the most traditional and well-known way of serving salmon, which would be with a beurre blanc. (Chef Smitty’s preparations for salmon.)
Of course, I had thought of including the recipe, but everything won’t always fit. I also like salmon with a maple glaze made by reducing maple syrup and then brushing it on the salmon as it cooks — or even brushing on barbecue sauce while it cooks. However, I am going to give in to his wishes and talk about beurre blanc.
Beurre blanc simply means “white butter.” It is a smooth and rich sauce made by reducing white wine and shallots to almost a paste and slowly whisking in butter. Sounds pretty simple, right? It is also easy to modify just by adding one or two other ingredients. For example, you can add a teaspoon of mustard. I like to use the mustard with seeds for this, but Dijon is also great. Or, you can reduce maple syrup and add to make a maple beurre blanc. Yes, I love all things maple, kind of like Will Ferrell’s character in “Elf” — well, maybe not on pasta.
“Beurre blanc is a smooth and rich sauce made by reducing white wine and shallots to almost a paste and slowly whisking in butter.”
Make a beurre blanc with any white wine or you can always use vinegar. Just think of the various vinegars out there and use a little imagination. A balsamic beurre blanc, although not technically white anymore, is really good. I like to add a little mustard to cut the sweetness some.
One of my all-time favorites is a raspberry beurre blanc made by reducing raspberry vinegar and shallots before whisking in the butter. I crush up maybe a dozen raspberries into the vinegar while it’s reducing and add whole fresh berries for garnish just before pouring the sauce over the salmon. By waiting until the end to add the berries, they heat up but don’t fall apart from cooking.
The raspberry beurre blanc may fall more closely into the beurre rouge category, which is a “red butter.” You make it the same way substituting red wine for white wine. I try to use a pinot or cabernet because they allow a little more butter flavor to come through. Definitely use what you have.
There is one thing to consider when making a beurre blanc and that is what kind of pan to use. Do not use an aluminum or copper pan. A Teflon pan with no scratches will work or use stainless steel. The acid of the wine or vinegar can react with the aluminum and change both the flavor and color.
The amounts of the ingredients will vary, so I normally measure by sight and how it looks. This is a rich sauce, so a little goes a long way. For two portions, I’ll use about 1 to 2 ounces of wine or vinegar with one finely diced shallot.
Start reducing and blend in the mustard and or any herbs, such as rosemary or dill. When there is very little liquid left, remove from the heat and slowly whisk a few tablespoons of butter in until the sauce is smooth, glossy and rich. Spoon over the salmon or any other fish or poultry.
As with last week’s recipes, there are way too many possibilities to name them all; so use this as a guide to help spark your imagination and do some of your own experimenting. Enjoy.