Monday, March 10, 2008

Beurre Blanc (Page 882)

  • Date: Saturday, March 8, 2008 -- 10pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

Matty and I share a deep love of broccoli, so we have been making our way through all the sauces in The Book that can reasonably be served on broccoli (beurre blanc: yes, cocktail sauce: no). During my last trip to Boston we made the beurre nantais with great success, so beurre blanc seems like a natural next choice. Beurre blanc is a fussy sauce -- one that separates easily. The idea is that you make a reduction of wine, vinegar, and shallots, and then incorporate cold butter in such a way that it doesn't just melt, but rather gives the sauce body. This is tricky. If the sauce gets too hot the butter melts and everything separates. It is much easier to be successful if you add a bit of cream to it as a stabilizer, however this is cheating! Beurre blanc contains no cream! I was happy to see that the recipe in The Book was a true cream-less beurre blanc. On the other hand, that makes it trickier to make. I spent a bit of time in culinary school perfecting my beurre blanc technique, so I let Matty so the tricky part of this recipe: adding the butter. And he did a fine job! The sauce didn't separate at all. It tasted fabulous, but had one serious issue: it was much too thin in consistency. The ratios in this recipe were not good -- there was too much liquid for the amount of butter added. So even though Matty incorporated the butter perfectly it still came out too thin. That said, it tasted awesome, and we happily drenched not only our broccoli but also a wheat berry salad in this sauce (yes, we ate wheat berries drenched in butter sauce!). In summary: consistency bad, flavor good!

This recipe isn't online.

In culinary school we had a final practicum on the last day of class where we picked a card and we had to make whatever was on the card and serve it to a panel of judges. I was thinking about this today because I remember being very scared of pulling a card with beurre blanc as one of the components on it. Usually my beurre blanc turns out just fine, but it is easy to ruin, and the practicum rules were that you weren't allowed to redo anything. Fortunately the card I pulled was danish with three fillings, which was perfect for me since I am a pastry girl at heart!

My favorite final practicum horror story (this wasn't from my class, but the story is so amazing that it got passed down from another class): The student in question pulled the card for baked stuffed squid. She had never made a stuffed squid before, but she had cooked squid, and she had stuffed plenty of things, so how hard could it be? She carefully prepared and seasoned her stuffing, cleaned her squid, and stuffed it. She knew it had to bake for a while, so she set a timer and left it in the oven unattended as she went to prepare her sides and sauces to accompany it. The one thing that she failed to consider is that a squid, unlike the other things she had stuffed (e.g. a turkey) doesn't have any bones. Stuffing tends to expand in the oven, which if you are stuffing a turkey for instance, is no problem -- the stuffing just squirts out the end. So said culinary student hadn't thought to worry that she might be overstuffing the squid. But indeed she had, and by the time she went to check on her squid in the oven, it had exploded. The squid pieces had adhered themselves to the walls and floor of the oven and were burning away. As there are no redos in the final practicum, her only choice was to scrape the burning squid off the oven and patch it around her stuffing so that she would have something to serve the judges. As I said, I wasn't there, but apparently there were tears!   

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