Years ago when I first started being really interested in food my mom mailed me a book called La Varenne Pratique. It is written by the Anne Willan, founder and president of the famous French cooking school Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne, Paris. Oh là là! I have been thinking about learning the basics of classic cooking and baking techniques for a while now. This book was the perfect place to start.
I attempted the beurre blanc/white butter sauce for my salmon en papillote (salmon in parchment paper). As you can see from the picture above, the salmon looks yummy but is not covered in a creamy white sauce. Alas, I did the sauce completely incorrectly and thought I would share my cooking shame to help you avoid making the same mistakes I made.
The recipe for the white butter sauce makes 1 cup of sauce and it is not reheatable. Um…I’m making one little piece of fish for myself, I am not going to need that much sauce! So I divided the recipe into a third. Perhaps this was a bad idea? In a small sauce pan I put in 1 tbsp of white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp of white wine and 1 chopped shallot. Ready to go I had 1/3 of a cup of cold butter pieces and some chopped dill:
So what went wrong? I did not realize that the recipe part of the book would only include the “bare bones” so to speak of what to do. It did not mention temperature or cooking technique. That was printed in four long paragraphs beside the recipe. Did I mention this sauce is supposed to take mere minutes to make?
At first, I was doing OK. For step one I boiled the liquid with shallots until there was very little left. They highly recommended adding some whipping cream to get the creamy consistency started. No problem. I went to get the cream and found out it had frozen solid and looked all bubbly. Um…???? What the hell?
That’s where things quickly started to fall apart.
For step two I was supposed to mount the butter but it did not say to turn the heat down, so I didn’t. And the butter just melted and melted and melted and did not come together in a sauce and I had no idea what the hell I was doing. It just turned into liquid butter goldness and nothing else seemed to be happening so I tossed in the dill and decided not to strain out the shallots. I like shallots.
You know what? It was still absolutely delicious! When you are working with wine, shallots and butter, it may not look good but it will always taste fantastic.
Yes, I will attempt to make the sauce again and get this lesson right one day. I will make sure my whipping cream is not all frozen and bubbly. I will add the non-weird cream, bring it up to a boil, then turn down the heat and slowly add the butter, whisking furiously as the sauce (fingers crossed) emulsifies.
For now, I will use this leftover buttery gold on my no-knead whole wheat savory bread, not letting my mistakes go to waste.