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sandre au beurre blanc

Introduction

A culinary marriage from Poitou-Charentes. You'll find this in restaurants throughout Poitou-Charentes and the Western Loire. It is often referred to as simply "poisson au beurre blanc".

Sandre English: Pikeperch or Zander is a firm and fine white fish with a delicate flavour. Fine specimens up to 1.2m (4ft) long have been caught in the Thouet river just a two minute walk from our house and the fish is common in the rivers of Poitou-Charentes. In these days of dwindling fish stocks, it is nice to offer a recipe for a fish that is delicious, plentiful and thriving. You could substitute any firm white fish but my recommendation would be loin of cod (dos de cabillaud).

Beurre blanc English: White Butter is the sauce of the region. The butter of Poitou Charentes, the first to be granted an AOC, is a pale creamy butter with a high (82%) butterfat content. It is highly prized by chefs worldwide. The sauce is actually a warm emulsion and needs to be prepared and served immediately. If left to stand it will separate.

Tips

This fish just needs to be lightly seasoned and cooked. With skin on it can be pan-fried or poached, without steamed. Each excellent.

Serve this with a Sauvignon Blanc. Haut-Poitou produces the best Sauvignon Blanc in the region and some of the best in France. The acidity and flinty quality of this wine cuts gracefully through the richness of the sauce and lifts the fish.

Fish skins tightens and shrinks as it is heated. To prevent this and fillet curling up we make small diagonal slashes in the skin.

For a clean beurre blanc sauce use white peppercorns.

The key to the sauce is to gently warm and emulsify the butter over a low even heat.

Ingredients (serves four)

Measures available: Metric  Imperial  U.S.

  • 4 fish fillets (skin on) 150-180g each
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
  • 150ml of white wine
  • 50ml of white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped shallot
  • 200-250g ice cold unsalted butter cut into 1cm cubes
  • Salt & freshly ground white pepper
  • Small handful of chives for decoration
  • 4 fish fillets (skin on) 6-8oz each
  • 1oz unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
  • 5 fl oz of white wine
  • 2 fl oz white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped shallot
  • 6-8 oz ice cold unsalted butter cut into 1cm cubes
  • Salt & freshly ground white pepper
  • Small handful of chives for decoration
  • 4 fish fillets (skin on) 6-80z each
  • ¼ stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
  • Generous ½ cup of white wine
  • 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped shallot
  • Salt & freshly ground white pepper
  • Small handful of chives for decoration

Tools of the Trade

  • Heavy bottomed pan that you can use a beater\whisk in

Method

The Fish

Turn the fish fillets skin side up and make small slashes diagonally in the skin. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt the butter and oil in the frying pan and place over a medium to high heat. When the butter just starts to foam place the fish fillets in the pan skin side down. Press down each of the fillets and cook until the skin is crisp and brown.

Lower the heat and when you can hear that the fat is no longer spitting, turn the fillets over and continue to cook gently for a couple of minutes. Total cooking time five to seven minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.

Place the fish fillets on warmed plates, spoon over the beurre blanc sauce and decorate each with two to three strands of the chives. Serve.

The Sauce

Place the white wine, vinegar and shallots into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until it has reduced to a couple of tablespoons of glaze.

Lower the heat under the pan, ideally place a simmer plate underneath. Add a teaspoon of water to the glaze and beat that in. Now using the whisk beat the butter in, three to four cubes at a time. When you have added about ¾ of the butter season the sauce to taste. If the sauce is too acidic, continue to whip in butter. If too flat add a ½ teaspoon of vinegar. Serve immediately.

Suggestion

To steam or poach the fish, first prepare a court bouillon English: Short Boil. Finely chop ½ carrot and onion with a stick of celery. Place in a pot with a spring of thyme, parsley stalks, a strip of lemon zest, half a dozen black peppercorns and a teaspoon of salt. Add ½ glass of white wine and 1l or 2 pints of cold water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes, then strain.

To Steam: Place some of the court bouillon in a pan and sit the steamer with the lightly seasoned fish fillets on top. Cover and steam for 8-10 minutes. Then remove and serve as above.

To Poach: Place the fish fillets into the hot strained court bouillon, place on a very low heat and poach for 6-8 minutes. Lift out carefully and serve with the sauce.