radishes with tarragon beurre blanc

There are a few sauces in the culinary realm that really trip my trigger.  Beurre blanc happens to be a shining example.  In fact, it is not uncommon to hear me say that I would take a bath in it.  I heart beurre blanc.  (You may also hear me say that about ponzu sauce, but let’s save that for another day).  I happen to think that beurre blanc is the bee’s knees.  I love that you can start with a handful of base ingredients then twist and morph it into an endless variety of tasty treats for dipping (or drowning, as in my case) veggies, meats, seafood… oh the list goes on and on.  But really, can you go wrong with a sauce that is 95% butter?  I think not.  Jenny Craig, cover your eyes and ears (and mouth!).

Literally translated from French, beurre blanc means “white butter.”  You can sound super impressive and use the French name (say burr bl-ah-nc) or you can just say butter sauce.  Either way you say it, it is damn tasty.  It is a rich, velvety sauce with a hint of acidity, either from vinegar/lemon juice and white wine.  You can also make it with red wine, but at that point, it becomes beurre noir.  See?  You’re learning French today, too!  It does take just a little bit of babysitting, as you continually whisk the butter into the reduced wine piece by piece, which allows the butter to slowly incorporate into the sauce and not separate.  Remember the scene in Ratatouille?  “Don’t let that beurre blanc separate!  Keep whisking!”

I digress.  As I said before, I’m a sucker for the stuff.  I was browsing around, looking for quintessentially spring recipe ideas, and I stumbled across this.  In France (and elsewhere), it is traditional to eat raw radishes with butter and salt, often on fresh bread.  It is said that the richness of the butter cuts the bite of the radish.  So I thought, why not take it up a notch and turn that butter into a rich butter sauce, add a little tarragon, and really knock it out of the park?  Gourmet, you had me at beurre blanc.

You can certainly use regular radishes, but I wanted to wait until our Farmer’s Market had bunches of French Breakfast radishes.  (See a theme here?)  French Breakfast radishes have just a little bite compared to the more horseradish-like bite of a traditional radish.  They are long and thin, rather than round and wide, and are vermilion red with a delicate white tip.  Once cleaned of all of their dirt and their greens trimmed, they are a stunning display of jewel-like vegetables.  And once dunked into a decadent beurre blanc, they are gone.

radishes with tarragon beurre blanc

recipe:  adapted from Gourmet (I miss you so)

2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot

1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

½ tsp. whole black peppercorns

1 c. dry white wine (such as chardonnay)

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes (European style if you can find it)

1 ½ Tbsp. finely chopped tarragon

Kosher salt

Radishes, cleaned and greens trimmed 

Combine shallot, white wine vinegar, peppercorns and wine in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce to about ⅓ c.  Strain reduced wine into a small bowl, discard solids, wipe out saucepan and return wine to pan.  Reduce heat to low and whisk butter into sauce, one cube at a time, until fully incorporated.  Repeat with remaining butter.  Remove from heat and add tarragon.  Season to taste with salt.  Serve immediately with radishes and additional kosher salt.  Dunk radish in beurre blanc, dip in a bit of salt, and enjoy!

Happy spring!

– j

 All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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