Monday, February 15, 2010

Crispy Salmon w/ a Tomato Basil Beurre Blanc

Beurre blanc [burr BLAHNGK] Meaning "white butter," is a classic French sauce composed of a wine, vinegar, and shallot reduction into which chunks of cold butter are whisked until the sauce is thick and smooth. There are countless variations of this classic sauce. Perhaps every time I make a beurre blanc, I come up with a new variation to best fit the dish I'm working with. Sauces like this are the most fun to work with because they're not completely constrained to step by step instruction. This sauce is one of my favorites for fish, especially salmon or whitefish.

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
1 C. Onion, minced
TT Salt
TT White Pepper
1/3 C. White Wine
2 C. Heavy Cream
1/4 lb. Butter, small dice
1/4 C. Basil, chiffonade
1 C. Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
2 lb. Salmon (8oz. portions)

Too often people fiddle with their food while it's cooking. They like to flip and swirl the pan. For crispy salmon, and fish in general, simply leave it alone and let it settle. I feel that salmon shouldn't be flipped more than once. Heat a touch of olive oil over medium high heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place it in the pan for about 7 minutes. The color on the sides of the fish should slowly change as the fish cooks. When the color has crept 2/3 of the way up the fish, flip it over to finish on the other side for about 3-4 minutes.

To simplify this sauce, there are four main steps. Caramelize, reduce wine, reduce cream, finish with butter. Saute the garlic and onion in oil over medium high heat until fragrant and light brown, season with salt and white pepper. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce until almost dry. The wine will really intensify the flavors in the pan. When the wine is almost dry, add the cream and reduce by half. When the cream has turned from white to a pale yellow and reduced by half, remove the sauce from the heat and slowly add a small amount of the cold butter.

It is important that the butter is added in small amounts so as not to cool down the sauce too quickly. Once a small portion of the butter has been whisked into the sauce until it is melted, add another small batch until all the butter is gone. The basil and tomato can be added to the sauce and, if desired, put on low heat. The heat from the sauce will steep the basil and cause the tomatoes to begin to break down.

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