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Salmon with the great White Butter Sauce, Leek and Asparagus

With Alex MacKay

Salmon with the great White Butter Sauce,  Leek and Asparagus

The sauce known as beurre blanc comes from a place in France where the river Loire meets the Atlantic sea. It is perhaps this provenance that makes beurre blanc the perfect sauce for salmon. It is a legendary sauce, a great French lady; the white wine and vinegar give her bite and the butter gives her beauty. I give her a veil of practicality with a splash of cream to make her less delicate or prone to separation as she would be with butter alone. It also means she can be kept warm for a while. Asparagus and leek party together on the side; both love the sauce as much as the salmon. The sauce is fine for kids as the wine has its alcohol boiled out. Leeks can be a tricky texture, so chop them finely and boil them until they are completely soft. Start kids on the more tender asparagus tips. Good to puree or chop and freeze for babies and toddlers.

Serves 2
Prep ahead Sauce, an hour ahead; keep warm
Prep/cooking 30-35 mins
Active time 20-25 mins

2 skinless salmon fillets, 130-140g each and 2-2.5cm thick
100ml dry white wine
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 shallots, peeled and very finely chopped
2 tbsp whipping cream
1 tbsp water
60g butter
1 large leek (about 200g), trimmed and cut into 2cm slices diagonally
1 bunch of asparagus (about 10 spears), woody ends removed, each cut into 3 diagonally
Salt, freshly ground black
pepper and sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 120C/Gas 1/2, position middle shelf. Boil your kettle.
2. Start with the salmon. Get a non-stick baking tray. Put the salmon on the tray. Season each fillet with salt and pepper. Brush the seasoning into the flesh. Bake for 22 minutes.
3. While the salmon bakes, prepare the sauce. Get a small saucepan. Add the wine, wine vinegar and shallots. Put the pan on a high heat. Bring to the boil and boil until the liquid is reduced by three-quarters. When it is ready, there will be about 2 tbsp of liquid left in the pan and it will be quite dark. Turn down the heat, whisk in the cream and the 1 tbsp of water. Don't worry if it looks a bit curdled, it will be fine. Add the butter, 20g at a time, whisking as you go. Don't let the sauce boil or it will separate. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar. Keep the sauce warm over a very low heat for a few minutes or sit the pan in another pan of hot water for up to an hour, whisking occasionally.
4. Next, get a large saucepan. Fill it with boiling water. Add salt and bring back to the boil. Put a colander in your sink. Add the leek slices to the boiling water. Cover and bring back to the boil. Take off the lid. Boil for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus stalks and boil for 3 minutes. Add the tips and boil for another 2 minutes or until everything is tender. Drain in your colander. Shake it to remove as much water as possible. Add the vegetables to the sauce. Season to taste.
5. Put the salmon on one side of your plates. Put the leek and asparagus next to it. Spoon the sauce over everything.

Cook extra
Bake extra salmon fillet(s) to eat cold the next day with a potato or green salad and herb mayonnaise. Or flake the salmon and mix it with cress for a sandwich or wrap; try adding grated pear.

(Broadcast: 10 July 2012)