Before I went vegan, I hadn't tried a lot of foods. I grew up in a small town in Upstate New York, where availability of fancy and/or ethnically diverse foods was limited to the "ethnic" section of the grocery store--which had taco shells, a few kinds of hot sauce, and couscous. Oh, and maybe some artisan olive oil. Going vegan made me think about food, and definitely made me cook more (my mother was, at first, at a loss as to what to make for me to eat). The more confident a cook I become, the more challenges I end up wanting to take. "What other cool techniques can I try?" I ask myself. "What other non-vegan things can I veganize?"
The more experimental I get in cooking, the more recipes I look at that I wouldn't've considered before. Last spring I read countless brisket recipes to develop my own seitan brisket (more on that in another entry); I poured over recipes for chicken cordon bleu to get my vegan cordon bleu up to par. SO when Francis Lam published a recipe for beurre blanc on salon.com, I ate up that recipe with gusto.
For those of you who, like me (well, before I read that recipe, and then read Julia Child's anecdote about learning to make it), don't know what beurre blanc is, it is a butter sauce. "Beurre Blanc" means "white butter." If that sounds overly simple, that's because it is. It's butter, white wine or vinegar, vinegar, shallots, and maybe some lemon juice and pepper and salt if you feel like it. It's very simple in ingredients, but complicated in taste. And not just in taste--if you read Lam's article, you'd be under the impression that it's really hard to make. While the article does say how delicious it is, it makes it sound almost too intimidating.
I am here to tell you that if you are vegan, you can disregard the "intimidation" and "difficult" aspects. Earth Balance margarine is apparently a lot more forgiving than butter. Also, while I don't really have that much of a problem eating fatty foods, I do have a bit of a problem using so much margarine for one recipe (it's pricy!). So I have tried Lam's recipe twice with half the recommended amount of butter, and it was great. Never having had a non-vegan beurre blanc sauce, I imagine it's supposed to be thicker, but for a beurre blanc with half the fat, a thinner sauce is totally worth it.
Beurre blanc is great poured over greens, baked tofu, vegan cordon bleu, or just over bread. It's a chunky (well, you can strain it, but I don't) beigeish sauce, so it's not very photogenic, but trust me, this is AWESOME. Much more than the sum of its parts.
This recipe will easily serve 8, more if you're not so generous with your servings as I am.
Vegan Beurre Blanc
1 medium shallot (or 1/4 C of an onion), diced small
1 C dry white wine*
3 Tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar, but white wine vinegar would be good, too)
2 sticks Earth Balance of other vegan "butter" (if you use the tubs instead of the sticks, that's 16 Tbsp or 1 C, but save yourself some work and get the sticks for this!)
Salt and/or pepper if you want
In a medium-to-small saucepan, combine the wine, vinegar, and shallots, and bring to a boil. Boil this down until almost all the liquid is gone; you want to cook it down until there are 2 tablespoons of liquid left. Stir occasionally to make sure the sides aren't burny.
In the meantime, take the earth balance out of the fridge and divide it into chunks that are approximately tablespoon size. (They can be a little bigger if you want to sace yourself on time.)
When the liquid on the stove has cooked down to just 2 Tbsps' worth, turn the heat down to low whisk in 2-3 Tbsp of the butter. Whisk well, until the sauce is a consistent texture. Once the butter is incorporated, keep adding 2-3 Tbsps of the butter at a time and whisking till emulsified. Once all the butter is worked in, you're done! Taste-test: it will be delicious, but if it feels a little greasy, add a tsp of lemon juice at a time until the flavors are balanced. If it seems to acidic (it probably won't), you can whisk in a little more butter.
It is ready to serve! Enjoy! It is especially good on beets, tofu, and bread...
The Beurre Blanc won't really keepy as a sauce; once it cools to room temperature, it separates a bit and and thickens. Store leftovers in a small container and use as a flavored butter (stir with a fork or knife before spreading), or as the base to sauteed pastas or veggies later.
*-Note: We never have white wine lying around, so as a general rule to replace 1 C white wine in cooking, I use 3/4 C water, 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp agave or other sweetener, and 1 Tbsp vodka or clear rum (optional; it cooks out but still lends a bit of an "alcohol was here" taste to a dish).
Now that the recipe's out of of the way, I have two more things:
First, the Vegan Month of Food is coming up in November. If you are unfamiliar with it, VeganMoFo is a month where vegan bloggers try to post every day. I've never participated in it before because of my inability to post even once a week with regularity, but this November, I'm up to the challenge! Check out more info on VeganMoFo (and sign up to participate) at the VeganMoFo headquarters.
Second, hopefully before November, I'm planning to revamp this blog. I think one of the reasons I don't post here as much is that I don't always enjoy writing about food (gasp!)... but I do really enjoy writing. So definitely for VeganMoFo but probably beyond, I'm looking to expand my content a little to around-the-house and around-Boston topics. And I'd like to include a little more about me--I realized recently that, beyond what I eat/don't eat, I don't really write much about who I am in this blog. And this layout could use a bit of a makeover.
Writing that made me curious: Bloggers, do you ever get tired of your content? What do you do to refresh or revamp your writing style or presentation? How do you strike the balance the personal and the impersonal? Readers without blogs, do you like learning more about the people behind the blogs you read? What do you think is a good balance of "about the author" and actual content in entries? What's the difference?