kitchen firsts: beurre blanc and parmesan crusted sole
Though I have heard a lot about beurre blanc, it was one of those things in the food world that I just never crossed paths with naturally. I guess I don’t eat enough fancy fish dishes in restaurants or something. But over Christmas I was reading My Life in France by Julia Child (I know, I’m a sheep), and she talked so much about this idyllic beurre blanc made by some woman in a tiny restaurant in Paris that I immediately put down the book and added it to my list of eventual kitchen firsts. Then I just waited for some nice looking fish to pop up at the market, and when it finally did I knew the time was ripe for some beurre blanc!
Making beurre blanc for the first time I felt like a friggin butter magician! It sounds all complicated and scary when you read about it but in practice I didn’t find it quite as finnicky as it was cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely a weekend recipe. It requires some timing, and your full attention for the 10ish minutes that you are emulsifying and stuff, and, let’s not forget, it’s essentially just butter mixed with other things that are bad for you. But all that aside, I promise you it is not hard, so if anything should deter you from making this, let it be that you are waiting for the best, most special time to enjoy a drizzle of butter’s better half on something really good.
Parmesan Crusted Sole with Beurre Blanc
Fish adapted from an amalgamation of sources; Beurre Blanc adapted from Alton Brown
Serves 2-4, depending on the size of the filets
For the fish
2-4 filets of sole (we used dover sole)
Handful of flour in a wide bowl
2 eggs, lightly beaten in a wide bowl
2/3 cup panko + 1/3 cup grated parmesan, mixed together in a wide bowl
Salt and pepper
Canola oil, for frying
A small handful of parsley, chopped, to top the fish
1/2 cup white wine
1 medium shallot, minced
juice of 1 small lemon (less than 1 oz juice)
1/2 T cream
6 T cold unsalted butter, cubed
Salt and white pepper, to taste
First, season fish filets with salt and pepper. Dredge in bowl of flour, then in beaten egg, and then coat with parmesan and panko mixture, pressing to give it a good coating. When all filets are done, set aside on a plate until you’re ready to go. You can also get your oil set up in a skillet, but don’t turn the heat on until you’re a little closer to ready.
Next, get your beurre blanc all set up so that when you start you can focus. First, cube your butter and then put it in the freezer for the time it takes you to get your other stuff ready. Juice your lemon, mince the shallot, and measure out your white wine and cream. Then you’re ready to start!
In a small sauce pan over high heat, add wine, lemon, and shallot. Allow to heat up and bubble away until it reduces to about 2 T (don’t panic if you aren’t sure if it’s 2 T, just estimate and it will be fine). Add the cream. When it comes back to bubbling, turn the heat down to low and add a cube of butter to the pan. Whisk the butter into the reduction, first on the heat, and then off, until it’s melted in. Toss in another cube, and do the same.
At this point, take a quick second to turn the heat to medium high on your skillet for the fish. Back to the beurre blanc, continue adding butter cubes and whisking– once you get in a rhythm, you can put in two cubes at a time. When all the butter is incorporated, the sauce should be thick and rich looking. Season to taste with salt and white pepper (doesn’t that first taste just blow you away?? who knew butter could taste like that!). Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm for the time it takes you to get the fish cooked. If for any reason you have a delay at this point, you don’t want to keep your beurre blanc waiting too long, so I’ve heard it’s good to put it in a thermos to keep warm if you are going to wait more than a few minutes.
Your skillet and oil should be well heated now, so add your fish filets to the pan. Allow the panko and parmesan coating to get to a beautiful golden brown before flipping– depending on the thickness of your filets, it should take about 2-4 minutes per side. When both sides are golden brown, remove from the pan. We let ours drain/rest on a paper towel for just a minute while we got our plates ready, then dished them up with a drizzle (slash small puddle) of beurre blanc. Enjoy while it’s hot!