This past week I taught two hands-on classes titled Paris Spring Cooking. The menu included artichoke soup, scallops with asparagus and peas napped with beurre blanc, and as sides a watercress and orange salad, and crispy rice cakes with Comté cheese. By far the technique that interested my students most was that of making the celebrated French sauce known as beurre blanc.
Beurre blanc (or white butter) is one of the simplest of France’s sauces, yet many cooks have never prepared it. It consists of two simple steps. First you add minced shallots, wine, and vinegar to a good sturdy saucepan. Then, cook the mixture until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. For the second step, you whisk in a tablespoon of cream and begin adding small pieces of softened butter while whisking vigorously. The trick is to never let the butter melt completely, but rather keep it at a sauce-like consistency. When all the butter has been incorporated, the sauce can be transferred in its saucepan to a skillet of warm water to keep it from solidifying.
Beurre blanc is traditionally used as a garnish for seafood and, in the following recipe (a slightly abbreviated version of the one from class), I’ve used scallops plus spring asparagus and peas. But, try this special sauce on roasted salmon, or spoon it atop sautéed cod fillets, or offer it with grilled shrimp. One mouthful, and I suspect you’ll become a fan too!
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Scallops, Asparagus, and Peas with Chive Beurre Blanc
Chive Beurre Blanc
11/2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
3 tbsp dry white wine
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp heavy cream
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and broken into pieces
1 tbsp chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
1 For sauce, place shallots, wine, and vinegar in a small nonreactive, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook, watching carefully, until almost all the liquids have evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes or more.
2.Whisk in cream and cook 1 minute until it is warm. Then, remove the saucepan to the side but leave the burner on. Whisk in the butter, a half-tablespoon at a time, until it has blended but not melted into the shlallot mixture. Continue until you have added about 2 tablespoons of the butter.
3.Then return the pan to the heat and continue whisking and adding the butter in the same way. Sauce will thicken and become creamy and smooth. Remove from heat and place the pan with the sauce in a skillet of warm water to keep if from solidifying. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. (Beurre Blanc can be prepared 45 minutes ahead. To reheat, place skillet of water with saucepan over low heat and whisk sauce until warm.) Stir in the chives.
Scallops, Asparagus and Peas
1 lb medium asparagus, 3 to 4 inches tough bases trimmed
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (defrosted)
16 large sea scallops (about 1 lb), side tissue removed, and scallops patted dry
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for sautéing
1. Slice asparagus spears on the diagonal into 2-inch lengths and add to a large saucepan of boiling water along with 1 teaspoon salt. Cook until barely tender, 2 1/2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander. If using fresh peas, add them to the pot and cook 2 to 3 minutes until tender, then add to the colander. Cool vegetables in the colander under cold running water. Pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel. (Vegetables can be cooked 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using.)
2. Heat enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. When oil is very hot, add half the scallops and sauté until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining scallops. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the asparagus and peas (if using frozen peas, add them here) to the skillet, adding extra oil if needed. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Make a bed of vegetables in 4 shallow bowls and top with scallops. Drizzle warm beurre blanc over both. Serves 4.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2016