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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Grapefruit beurre blanc

This is so the opposite of the kind of thing I usually recommend preparing.  You cannot make this sauce ahead of time and reheat it.  You cannot divert your attention while you're making it.  You have to serve it as soon as you finish making it.  You have to stand at the stove for a solid 15-20 minutes, whisking all the while,  timed to coincide with the rest of dinner being ready, and under no circumstances should you walk away or fiddle around with other dishes or pay attention to your screaming children while you are making it.

But it is so tasty that it's worth it.

The traditional beurre blanc sauce is made with white wine and white wine vinegar in addition to a small vat of butter.  The tanginess of the vinegar cuts the richness of the butter and compliments a simply-prepared but full-flavored dish, often a seafood dish like lobster.  Since I was making grapefruit shrimp on the grill, I had 2 grapefruits' worth of juice to do something with (having used the zest for the marinade).  I decided to make a beurre blanc, replacing the white wine vinegar with grapefruit juice.  I'm sure Martha Stewart is rolling her eyes in despair, but it was delicious.

You can get some of the work done ahead of time for this sauce.  In fact, the butter needs to be really cold so it's better to cut it up and put it back in the fridge for a bit.  You can make the wine/juice reduction ahead of time too.  Since it boils down to just a tablespoon or two of syrup, leave the reduction in the saucepan rather than transferring it to a container...you always lose a little liquid when you pour back and forth between pots and there's just not much to start with.  Put the saucepan back on the stove over low heat for a couple minutes to warm it back up, then proceed to whisk in the cold-cold butter.

Really, do not get distracted.  Not while you're boiling down the wine and juice, not while you're whisking in the butter.  Reducing the wine-juice combo is something that just takes as long as it takes...you can't set a timer and come back to it.  It makes a syrup, and like working with an actual sugar syrup, it goes from not ready to ready to burned in a flash.  Adding the butter gradually keeps the sauce, well, saucy.  If you rush things, or let the sauce sit around too long after it's finished, it will separate (or "break") and you'll have a melted butter swirled around with syrupy juice rather than a cohesive, thick, rich sauce.  Not the end of the world, but not what the point of the exercise was.

A quick tip about reducing liquids...I am terrible at estimating volume so if I have a recipe that calls for boiling a liquid down to a certain amount, I pour that amount of water into my pan before I start cooking so I have a visual target (and then of course, I pour out the water and dry the pan before starting the recipe).

Plan to serve this with either a quick-to-cook protein (like grilled shrimp) that you can do pretty fast after you've got the sauce made, or something that doesn't require a lot of babysitting (like baked chicken or fish) to cook without attention while you prepare the sauce..

Grapefruit Beurre Blanc 
Makes 1/2 cup sauce

1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1/2 cup butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Combine wine and juice in a small saucepan.  Boil hard until reduced to 1-2 tbsp.  Fridge at this step, if desired.

Turn heat to low and begin whisking the butter into the syrup 1 piece at a time.  Try not to let the finished sauce stand for too long before serving. Pin It

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