My company decided to host our very own Top Chef competition in our office to benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Of course, I jumped at the chance to cook AND compete (two of my favorite past times). We were informed there would be a “guest judge” and we could cook whatever we wanted and we could enter more than one dish. I quickly decided that one of my dishes would be my famous chocolate peanut butter bars. I have posted the recipe in the past as one of my favorites.
It took me a few days to decide that I wanted to make a beurre blanc sauce (always a crowd pleaser). At the time and throughout preparation, I didn’t know that you’re not supposed to reheat a beurre blanc sauce (it separates) but I still took my chances. I was originally going to put it over fresh pasta and lump crab meat. I was a bit concerned about cooking pasta in a microwave (my only heating tool), however, I figured I’d take my chances (especially since all you really have to do is soak fresh pasta in water and it works).
I took a journey to Whole Foods to get all of my ingredients. I got home and immediately set to making the beurre blanc sauce.
Side tangent: It has become cliche to talk about Julia Child at this time. Between the book and movie, there is an instant judgement on the subject (especially by other food bloggers! So judgemental! WOW!) Now I, for one, loved the book AND the movie (a rarity to love both). I completely related to Julie’s humble beginnings in the blog world as well as her theatre background and clumsy nature. While reading the book, there were a number of times that I felt that I could relate ALL too well. I have also always had a fond respect for Julia Child, especially when it comes to butter. While I think most of her recipes will never, ever apply to me, I always trust Julia Child when it comes to butter. Therefore, I decided it was time to check out her recipe. Low and behold, it is exactly the same as the recipe I’ve been using. I found myself even more inspired. /side tangent
My first step was taking 3 bars of GOOD butter and chopping it into small pieces (about a half in slices seems to work well). It’s also important to keep it cold. (More on that later)
I love shallots and believe in using many and not straining them out. Therefore I added a LOT of shallots. Speaking of shallots, I took a cooking class a few months ago and learned a great cooking tip for how to cut up a shallot. He instructed us to cut off the tip but LEAVE THE BASE (which holds it all together). First cut it horizontally, parallel with your surface. Then cut it from tip to base in vertical lines without cutting through the base. Lastly, starting parallel to the base at the tip, start cutting it into small pieces. Here is my visual collage of the steps:
Works like a charm!
Now usually I would never be the kind of cook that would use mise en place bowls. Unfortunately in the very few seconds it took me to chop the shallots, the butter began to melt and I had to do a quick exchange of putting the prepped ingredients into a lovely little ramekin so I could stick the butter back in the fridge. (Oh the joys of cooking in the middle of August).
Then I mixed the vinegar and white wine in a pot until boiled. Then I added the shallots, salt and pepper and lowered the heat to a simmer to reduce the liquid.
Everyone says the key to beurre blanc is to whisk in one cube of COLD butter at a time. I diligently did so.
I soon realized, however, that my whisk was ready for a much later stage. SO it was my mini whisk to the rescue! (I knew it would come in handy some day)
It all went perfectly and I had a beautiful creamy yellow sauce in just a few minutes.
It was at this point that I began to debate… “Do I really want to serve this great sauce over simple lump crab meat? Isn’t there something interesting I can do with the crab?” While I mulled this over, I started on the chocolate peanut butter bars.
The combination of peanut butter, melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, and powdered sugar makes an amazing fudgy like bottom.
I have made a double boiler and melted chocolate many, many times. I’m not sure what happened this time, however, but my chocolate seized. It has never happened to me before! I’m not sure if the chocolate was old or the steam hit it too much… it was strange. I had to start anew. Take 2 worked like a charm!
Back to crab… I did a quick search for crab cake recipes and decided to go with making a simple mini lump crab cake. I used panko bread crumbs instead of regular and it was DELICIOUS.
I was feeling confident as we taste tested that night.
So how did it all turn out? Who won? How did I do? Where did my food rank? Was it a fight to the finish? Who was judging?
Tune in tomorrow for the results.
I’m quoting this from the posting from Saveur:
Julia Child’s Beurre Blanc Sauce
“Butter is essentially a smooth mixture of fat and water. The secret to making beurre blanc is to preserve its makeup by allowing each addition of butter to melt smoothly into the sauce, as you whisk it, before adding the next piece of butter. Also, never let the sauce come to a boil once the butter is added; that will cause it to separate. Some restaurant cooks add a little heavy cream to the wine reduction before whisking in the butter, to ensure a smooth and stable sauce. This recipe is based on one in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck (Knopf, 1977).”
3 sticks cold unsalted butter (24 tbsp.), cut into chunks
1⁄4 cup dry white wine
1⁄4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. minced shallots
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
Pinch of white pepper
1⁄2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1. Have butter ready. Bring wine and vinegar to a boil in a saucepan; add shallots, salt, and pepper. Lower heat to a simmer; cook until most of the liquid has evaporated- reduced to ~1.5 tbsp. (If reduced too far, add 1 tbsp. water to remoisten.)
2. Remove pan from heat; whisk 2 pieces of butter into the reduction. Set pan over low heat and continue whisking butter into sauce a chunk at a time, allowing each piece to melt into sauce before adding more.
3. Remove sauce from heat; whisk in lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning, then strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Serve with fish, poultry, or vegetables.
This article was first published in Saveur in Issue #109
Mini Baked Crab Cakes
(My recipe made about 36 crab cakes with my melon baller scoop)
- 1 pound fresh lump crab meat (I got mine at Whole Foods for $12!)
- 3 shallots, finely minced
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Mix crab, shallots, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and mayonnaise.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Using a melon scooper (or teaspoon), shape mixture into about 20-30 walnut-sized balls.
- Spread remaining breadcrumbs onto a plate and roll balls lightly in crumbs to evenly coat.
- Slightly flatten crab cakes.
- Place on a greased baking sheet (or Silpat).
- Bake crab cakes until crisp and golden, about 12-15 minutes. (since I used panko, mine didn’t get too gold, however, the crispness was good)
Add enough bread crumbs to bind, about 2-4 tablespoons.