A light and creamy, shallot-infused butter sauce brings a whole new dimension to this wonderfully grilled filet of salmon. With a Loire Valley Muscadet, this salmon wine pairing is heavenly.
Today marks the first installment of a new monthly happening here at Curious Cuisiniere. If you’re a regular reader, you will know how much we love pairing wine and food. And, you’ve probably seen us featuring some special pairings on the second Saturday of each month with the Wine Pairing Weekend crew. Today, we’re diving even deeper into wine pairing exploits with the start of a monthly exploration of French wine regions (with, of course, food pairings to fit). We’re excited to join with this gang of French Winophiles today to kick off the group by exploring the wines of the Loire Valley.
Exploring the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is a beautiful, castle-studded region that runs along the Loire River from north central France, westward to the coast.
The Loire River is the essential piece of this wine-making region, and you will find different varieties of grapes planted all along the north and south of the Loire River. The Upper Loire, or the eastern part of the Valley, is most commonly known for their Sauvignon Blanc grapes that are used in the dry whites Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre. The Middle Loire, you will find dominated by the Chenin Blanc grape, producing smooth and fruity whites such as Vouvray and Montlouis. Not to leave out the reds, this area is also home to the Cabernet Franc grape, which produces Bourgueil and Chinon reds. The Lower Loire is the western-most part of the Valley, leading into the Atlantic. There, as the river heads into the ocean, you will find the Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne) region.
Being a region near water, the food of the Loire Valley is deeply rooted in seafood, particularly shellfish, mussels, and local freshwater fish. Rillettes, a shredded, textured pâté of pork, salmon, or duck is another regional specialty.
What is Buerre Blanc?
The fish dishes of the region are often partnered with a light creamy sauce, like the shallot infused beurre blanc.
Beurre Blanc (pronounced burr blah-ngk) is French for white butter. One of the fundamental sauces of French cuisine, this sauce originated in the Loire Valley, which makes sense because it is a perfect complement to the fish that abounds in the cuisine of the region.
Wine, shallots, and butter are all it takes to create a smooth and creamy sauce that is incredibly delicate but has a way of bringing out the flavors of lighter dishes like seafood, poultry, and eggs.
It can be a tricky sauce to make, since you are attempting to emulsify the butter into a saucy consistency with the wine and shallots. You don’t want just melted butter here, you want a thick, cream-colored sauce. The secret lies in adding the butter in cold cubes, one at a time, allowing each addition to melt slowly over the lowest heat possible as you whisk it smooth before adding the next inch-sized cube. Some recipes will add a little heavy cream to stabilize the sauce, but we found that as long as you are melting your cold butter slowly, no extra heavy cream is needed for a stable sauce.
Our Salmon Wine Pairing
We chose our pairing for today a bit backwards for a feature on Loire Valley Wines. We knew that we wanted to try our hand at the Loire classic sauce, beurre blanc, with grilled salmon as a tribute to the region’s seafood-heavy cuisine. From there, we decided on the wine.
For this salmon wine pairing, we decided to go with a wine from the region closest to the ocean, Muscadet.
The bottle we chose was 2009 Comte LeLoup du Chateau de Chasseloir Muscadet Sevre et Maine. We found the Muscadet to be slightly effervescent with definite floral notes and a really nice balance of acid and dryness. The slight effervescence gave the wine a hint of a salty/bitter aftertaste (in a good way), which brought to mind the smell of an ocean breeze, making it perfect for pairing with fish.
Whenever we do salmon on the grill, we ask ourselves why we don’t do it more often. By starting the grill on the high side (around 400°F), and then closing the vents slightly to lower the temperature once we put the salmon filet on, we get a beautifully crisp skin that acts as the perfect contrast to the smooth, smoke-infused salmon. Add the creamy beurre blanc to this salmon and the delicate flavors of the fish practically melt in your mouth.
While we loved the wine alone, when paired with the fish, each sip found a new, smooth and refreshing dimension that brought the flavor of the fruit more to the forefront of our palate. As we sat and savored each bite, we thought we could almost smell the ocean breeze.
Grilled Salmon with Beurre Blanc
For the Beurre Blanc
- ½ c dry white wine (Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay)
- 1 small shallot, minced
- ¾ c (1 ½ sticks) salted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes and chilled
For the Salmon
- 1 lb salmon filet, skin on
- Neutral oil (canola, cottonseed, grapeseed)
- Salt and pepper
For the Beurre Blanc
- In a large saucepan, add wine and minced shallot. Simmer over medium-high heat until the wine has reduced to about 2 Tbsp (roughly 10 min).
- Remove the pan from the heat and add one cube of chilled butter. (Keep the remaining cubes in the fridge until you are ready to use them.) As the butter melts from the residual heat of the pan, whisk it into the shallot and wine mixture. Continue with 1-2 more cubes of butter, adding them one at a time and whisking each cube completely into the sauce before adding another cube. At this point, you should have a nice layer of smooth butter sauce in the pan. Return the pan to a VERY LOW heat and continue adding the butter cubes, one at a time, whisking to keep the sauce smooth, until all the cubes have been added (25-30 min).
- At this point you have your sauce, aim to keep it 80-135F to keep a nice sauce consistency until you are ready to use it.
For the Salmon
- Preheat your grill to medium-high (roughly 400F). (You should be able to hold your hand above the grilling grate for 4-6 seconds.)
- Lightly oil the salmon and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place the salmon on the grill, skin-side down. Cover the grill and reduce the heat (by slightly closing the vents if using a charcoal grill) to around 350F.
- Grill the salmon 8-10 minutes for every inch of thickness of the filet. The filet is done when the edges flake easily with a fork. (The fish is done when just the edges flake. Not when it flakes all the way to the center. The fish will continue to cook after it has been removed from the grill.)
- Serve the salmon topped with beurre blanc. Add a Loire Valley Muscadet wine and a side salad for an elegant summer meal.
Continue the exploration of Loire Valley wines.
Thanks to Christy Majors of Confessions of a Culinary Diva for dreaming up the idea of this French Wine Pairing Group. Be sure to take a look at what the rest of the group discovered about Loire Valley wines this month. There are some wonderful wines and tasty dishes being featured. You might just find your new favorite pairing!
- Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “Tale Of A Crémant de Loire Brut Rose At The Table”
- Jeff from foodwineclick indulges in “Saint-Jacques Poêlées & Sancerre”
- Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere brings us “Grilled Salmon with Beurre Blanc and Loire Valley Muscadet”
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on a Farm tempts us with “Vouvray Poached Pineapple with Rosemary Whipped Cream featuring Bardon and Guestier aka CIC meets French Winophiles”
- David from Cooking Chat shares “Grilled Shrimp with Pouilly-Fumé
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla brings us “Gravlax, Goat Cheese, & French Sorrel Stuffed Squash Blossoms + Patient Cottat Sancerre 2013”
- Anna from Anna Dishes is whipping up Strawberry Lavender Compote with Loire Valley Brut Rosé
- Tammy from Telling Stories from Chez Nous is sharing “Lemon Garlic Chicken with Pan Sauce paired with Oisly & Thesse Sauvignon”
- Christy at Confessions of a Culinary Diva is sharing “Chard Roasted Salmon with 2013 Pouilly Fume and 2014 Sancerre Rosé“