Read the title of this post and you could be forgiven for yawning, slightly, even if you recognize the brilliant simplicity of a wine-shallot sauce. Take a look at the picture, however, and you can see that something else is going on. This recipe Ruhlman's Twenty also works in a beurre manié, a kneaded butter and flour mixture that thickens up the sauce and lends the white and creamy color. Sure, I've made a roux or two in my day, but I've never tried this technique before.
I worried that the sauce would have an uncooked flour profile, but that's not the case. Instead, the sauce is silky and smooth, sticking to the fish in a really elegant way. Thanks to the lemon juice and wine, the sauce helps perk up the flavor of the fish without holding it down.
Why I Picked This Recipe: Over the years, I've grown to appreciate fresh walleye from Canada. But honestly I was mostly intrigued to see how this sauce would work. Though not difficult, this kind of French-inspired dish is not something I cook often. I looked forward to the challenge.
What Worked: Of course, the fish is carefully cared for here, and walleye is one delicious fish. I suppose the best thing I could say is that the tart and creamy sauce doesn't try to cover up the flavor of the fish. Instead, it just accents it in a very delicate way.
What Didn't: It's a very light meal, but that's the point. Everything here worked as directed.
Suggested Tweaks: If you can't track down walleye, Ruhlman also recommends grouper, snapper, and halibut. You can serve this with whatever you'd like, but Ruhlman's cauliflower recipe in the same book—which takes a while and uses more butter than you can probably imagine—is definitely worth trying at least once.
Adapted from Michael Ruhlman's Ruhlman's Twenty
- 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 walleye fillets, about six ounce each, skin removed
- fine sea salt
- 1/4 lemon
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of flour to a small bowl, and knead together until flour is completely incorporated. (This is called a beurre manié.)
Add remaining butter to a large sauté pan set over medium heat. When butter melts, add minced shallot and cook until translucent. Add wine, 1/2 cup of water, and thyme. Bring liquid to a simmer, and then lay fillets in the pan. Cover pan, and adjust temperature to keep liquid at a simmer. Continue to simmer until fillets are cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove fish and set aside on a platter.
Turn heat to high, add flour and butter mixture, and cook until sauce thickens. Season sauce to taste with salt and lemon.
Transfer each fish fillet to a plate, coat with the sauce, and sprinkle with parsley.