Poached Asparagus with White Miso Beurre Blanc
This variation of the classic beurre blanc sauce pairs perfectly with quickly poached fresh asparagus.
Serves: 4 • Prep Time: N/A • Cook Time: N/A
Poached Asparagus with White Miso Beurre Blanc
Confession: I used to be afraid of making sauces.
I probably shouldn’t be too embarrassed, as sauces are the sort of thing that many home cooks are intimidated by. The reality though is that even the five French “mother sauces” laid down by Auguste Escoffier aren’t all all that diabolically complicated. The basic idea is taking some sort of fat, such as butter, rendered animal fat, or oil, and then gradually adding in other ingredients in order to form a thickened, emulsified combination that won’t separate when left to sit. The five sauces may differ in many ways, and can take a lifetime to master (no joke), but they’re definitely doable.
Of the five mother sauces, hollandaise is probably the trickiest, as temperature plays a significant factor in getting everything to blend together appropriately. Overcook the sauce and the egg yolks used to make it will cook; undercook it, and the ingredients won’t combine. This is a similar issue faced by beurre blanc, a subtle white sauce made from a reduction of white wine and/or vinegar, shallots, and cold butter. It’s delicious, but if you don’t mind the temperature you’ll wreck the sauce and will have to start from scratch, as there’s no saving it once it has broken. There is, however, a secret workaround.
The five sauces may differ in many ways,
and can take a lifetime to master (no joke),
but they’re definitely doable.
A couple of months ago I was visiting my grandparents and decided that I wanted to make a nice meal for them by grilling up some ribeye steaks. Not satisfied with the steak itself, I chose to make a béarnaise sauce, which is quite similar to a beurre blanc. The difficulty was that I’d never actually made béarnaise before, and for help I turned to one of my favorite food sites, Serious Eats. It was there I discovered that their managing culinary director J. Kenji Lopez-Alt had cracked the code for making these tricky emulsified sauces. His secret: the use of an immersion blender.
It’s an insanely great fix. You simply take whatever your aromatic base is (for the beurre blanc it’s white wine and shallots cooked down to form a sort of flavorful syrup), stick it in the bottom of a cup or mug just large enough to accommodate the head of the immersion blender (make it a relatively tight fit, you don’t want too much extra room), and then, with the blender running, slowly pour in a stream of melted butter. The blender evenly mixes all of the ingredients, preventing the whole thing from breaking, and you don’t have to worry about whisking over a low flame, or managing heat, or any of the complicated rigmarole that typically fouls up a sauce like this. This same method works for beurre blanc, béarnaise, hollandaise, and mayonnaise. Totally amazing.
This recipe is a spin on the standard beurre blanc. For starters, we’ll be using just wine and not a mix of wine and vinegar. We’ll also be slightly bumping up the amount of shallot used, eliminating the addition of aromatic herbs such as tarragon, and then adding white miso for a layer of salty, umami deliciousness. Lemon juice and salt help to round everything out.
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First, put a large saucepan of water over high heat and bring it to a boil, while also setting aside a large bowl filled with ice and water. While waiting for the pan of water to boil, set a small sauce pan over high heat and add 1/2 cup of dry white wine and one finely chopped medium-sized shallot. Bring the wine and shallot mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the wine and shallots have reduced to around 2 tablespoons worth. Make sure to keep an eye on it, because it reduces very quickly. While the wine is reducing, melt 1 and 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter. Once the butter has melted stir in 1 teaspoon of white miso, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
When the wine and shallots have reduced, transfer them to a mug just large enough to accommodate the head of an immersion blender. Turn the blender on to low speed and slowly pour in the melted butter/miso/lemon juice. As you pour, feel free to switch between low speed and high speed on the blender, and move the blender head up and down a bit to make sure that all of the sauce is being blended. My experience has been that this procedure is very forgiving, so as long as you pour in the butter slowly you basically can’t screw this up. Once all of the ingredients have been blended together, which will likely take only around a minute, taste the sauce and adjust the level of salt if desired. Let the sauce sit in the mug if you plan to spoon it over a platter of the asparagus, or transfer to a small serving bowl if you want to serve it on the side.
The water you had set to boil for your asparagus should now be ready. Add your trimmed asparagus to the pot and cook for approximately one minute, or until the asparagus is bright green and just fork-tender. Drain immediately and place the asparagus in the ice bath, which will halt the cooking process. Remove the asparagus from the water after about 30 seconds, dry with a dish cloth or paper towels, and then serve immediately with the miso beurre blanc.
Here’s how to make this delicious recipe
Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Then, fill a large bowl with water and ice and set aside.
While the water is heating, place a small saucepan over high heat and add white wine and shallots. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced to about two tablespoons.
Simmer the white wine and shallots until reduced to approximately two tablespoons
While the wine and shallots are simmering, melt the unsalted butter. Once melted, stir in miso, lemon juice, and salt, and set aside.
When the wine and shallots have finished reducing, remove from heat and transfer to a mug just large enough to accommodate the head of an immersion blender. Place the head of the immersion blender into the mug and turn the blender on to low speed. Slowly pour the butter over the head of the blender and gently move the blender up and down in order to incorporate all of the ingredients. Use the high speed setting on the blender if it seems that the ingredients are not incorporating fast enough. Once the sauce is fully blended transfer to a serving vessel if desired, or set aside in the mug.
Slowly pour the butter over the head of the blender and gently move up and down to incorporate all of the ingredients
Add the trimmed asparagus to the pan of boiling water and blanche for 1 minute, or until bright green and just fork-tender. Drain immediately and transfer the cooked asparagus to the ice bath. Remove from the water after approximately 30 seconds, dry with a dish towel or paper towels, and immediately plate and serve with the miso beurre blanc.
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 medium shallot finely chopped
- 1 and 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
- 1 tsp white miso
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 pound asparagus with woody ends trimmed
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Who’s Cooking Today
Jacob Dean is a freelance food and travel writer, recipe tester, and culinary product reviewer based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The Cook’s Cook Magazine, DCist, Industree, has freelanced as a recipe tester for the New York Times, and has been published by the Washington Post. Jacob has tried over twelve hundred unique beers (he keeps count).
You can find him online at jacobdeanwrites.com, on Twitter as @SchadenJake, and on Facebook as Jacob Dean Writes.
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