Beurre blanc, a classic French sauce, may sound like a rather intimidating prospect for the home cook, but as long as you remember to keep the heat under the pan very low, it's surprisingly easy to make – all you need is cold butter, and patience. As well as pairing well with steamed vegetables (try it with asparagus when it's next in season), and seafood, especially sweet things like scallops, beurre blanc is a lovely match with river fish like trout, whose delicate, but meaty flesh can stand up to the rich, tangy flavours – all you need to go with it are some steamed green beans and new potatoes, or even a simple green salad and bread.
It's a popular choice in the Loire Valley served with fish we tend to see less of on counters here, like pike and zander, or pike perch, both of which make excellent eating if you happen to come across them. Easier to find, however, are the rosés from the region, which I think are somewhat underrated next to their more pallid southern cousins – this bone-dry version lives up to the name 'Pure Loire', and with its restrained red fruit, creamy notes and elegant structure, is more than a match for the beurre blanc, bringing a summery freshness to the dish.
Bear in mind that this isn't a sauce that likes to wait around – it can split easily – so if you'd like to keep it warm, add 1 tbsp double cream instead of the water in step 4, which will help stabilise it if you need to keep it warm for a while before serving.
- 2 small trout
- 1/2 lemon
- 4 sprigs of dill or fennel tops
- Oil, to grease
For the beurre blanc
- 125g cold butter, diced
- 50g shallots, peeled and very finely minced
- 50ml dry white wine
- 100ml white wine vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp boiling water
- Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan. Grease a small baking tray and put the trout on there.
- Season the trout inside and out. Cut the lemon in rounds and put these inside the cavity, along with the herbs. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the eyes turn milky.
- Meanwhile, melt a couple of cubes of the butter in a small saucepan over a medium low heat. Add the shallots, wine, vinegar and bay leaf and cook very gently until the shallots are very soft and the liquid has all but evaporated. While they're cooking, boil a little water.
- Turn the heat under the pan right down (use a heat diffuser if you have one), and pour 2 tsp boiling water into the pan then, slowly, one cube at a time and keeping a couple in reserve, whisk in the butter until you have a thick sauce. Take off the heat and beat in the last couple of cubes, season to taste and serve with the trout.
Pair this wine with a dry, elegant Loire rosé such as Rosé de Loire 'Pure Loire', Famille Bougrier or a fragrant dry white such as Anjou 'Chenin des Rouillères', Frédéric Mabileau.