Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Whisk Wednesday Assignment #14, Part 2 -- Brochet a Beurre Blanc (Whole Poached Pike with White Butter Sauce)

I missed last week's Whisk Wednesday assignment for a lot of reasons I gave Shari -- all of which were true, Fearless Leader! So don't think I was trying to pull a fast one -- but the major truth of Steak Mirabeau (Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Anchovy Butter) was that the very idea of smooshing up some slimy little anchovies into perfectly good butter was, in my mind, a combination of blasphemy of dairy products and a sick-making endeavor better left untried.

Besides, I have made compound butters (which was what the lesson was about) many times, garlic butter and honey butter being the two main compounds that have come out of my kitchen. I felt no need to mess around with nasty anchovies, the very description of which -- "small, silvery fish cured with salt" -- makes my skin crawl.

So today, I was pleased to undertake Beurre Blance, although I'm just going to come right out and say that there was no way I was going to be poaching an entire pike, whole. I used some lovely salmon filets and the beurre blanc was absolutely delicious on them and produced several eager requests for me to "make that again!"

This recipe, which is designated "Beurre Blanc Sauce I" in Le Cordon Bleu at Home, was very easy to make, especially if you've already met with success at emulsified sauces like mayonnaise and béarnaise.

The ingredients were also simple, things I already had on hand in one form or another (my herbs are almost always the dried variety instead of fresh, but to be honest, either my dried herbs are of outstanding quality, or my palate is so deadened after years of eating barbecue-flavor Bugles that I'm incapable of much discernment in flavors), although I did substitute heavy cream for the crème fraîche called for in the recipe.* I used shallots, dry white wine (the Robert Mondavi Woodbridge chard which makes my evenings take on a warm and happy glow), white-wine vinegar, thyme, bay leaf, the cream, the butter and some lemon juice.

Really, this just couldn't have been much easier. The first few ingredients were combined over the heat and I allowed the liquid to evaporate, as per instructions (reminiscent of the béarnaise), then added the cream , gave it all a stir, and then allowed it to reduce by half, which it obligingly did. I was surprised by this, because I was halfway expecting it to balk in the manner of that really annoying Velouté Agnès Sorel -- the cream of chicken soup -- which never thickened, ever in this world.

The butter was whisked in without trouble (although it got a little softer than it needed to be in my warm kitchen) and once the lemon juice was added, it was ready to serve. Get this: Le Cordon Bleu at Home, in describing the plating for this dish, advises chefs-in-training to peel the skin off the pike while it is still warm and spoon a little sauce over the body, "leaving the head unsauced." Zut alors, my lunch trembles anxiously in my stomach just reading that. Eeeuuwww!!!

The Beurre Blanc was truly delicious on the salmon filets, which I served with steamed (fresh) carrots and (frozen) green beans that I cooked with a teeny, tiny bit of bacon, in spite of the fact that our healthful salmon had already been given a generous application of CREAM and BUTTER. Oh, my poor arteries!

Next Week: Salade de Sardines Crues aux Epinards (Spinach Salad with Fresh Sardines) page 197-198 {discussion of Vinaigrettes page 55}. Umm, I won't br using any sardines in this recipe either. They makes us feel creepsy, my precious.

*I found out later that a better replacement for crème fraîche is actually sour cream, rather than heavy cream. So this recipe perhaps missed a bit of flavor that it could have had, and my Beurre Blanc was probably more "saucy" since the heavy cream is thinner than the crème fraîche, if you follow me. But still, it was very delicious, and I consider it a successful undertaking.


Natashya said...

Are you trying to say that bacon is not health food?
We loved the sauce too, and could definitely feel the butter.
Salmon would have been really nice with this sauce.

Anonymous said...

Bravo!! Sounds delicious! I wasn't able to find pike either, but I used fresh trout.

Shari said...

Since I didn't do a whole fish either, I missed that part about leaving the head on! Thanks for pointing out that little detail we all would want to miss!! Great post.

Rosebear said...

Loved your post! You had me rolling about the anchovies. I don't know when I developed a taste for taste, I'll grant you, but surprisingly enough, a taste nonetheless. My favorite compound butter is that which accompanies another slimy...nuff said. *giggle* No pike here either...not even anything fresh. Too hard to come by here. "Previously frozen" has to do!

Kayte said...

Zut alors --- Barbecued Bugles!!!!! LOL.

Can't go wrong with their vinyard, all the roses, the view of the Vacas (I think it is the Vacas...Sara would know). One fine day there many years ago.

You make it all sound so wonderful. I must go back and do this one on your recommendation alone, because I trust you on stuff like this...I know you don't give up your Kraft Mac & Cheese ways lightly...that it would take something special to lure you into thinking of a whole pike being skinned in your kitchen and all...LOL. Loved the post, as always.