A good blanquette with its delicate layers of flavours and rich, velvety textures is reason enough to love a good blanquette, but one of my favourite things about this dish is its history.
The blanquette comes from the time when French royalty graced the bourgeoisie with precious recipes from the royal kitchens so those rungs down on the hierarchy of classes could eat like kings…almost.
The originally printed recipe for the blanquette had two versions: the traditional one, and the other, which is “à la bourgoisie” for those poor plebes who couldn’t possibly manage a velouté for lack of a proper saucier. Even though post-revolutionary France had all but done away with their guilds of various food-makers and other courtly snobbery that made its cookery inaccessible and began to borrow heavily from more provincial cuisine, the royalty still liked to snub their noses at their subjects.
So, in that spirit, I like to dumb this dish down even more! I replace the cost-prohibitive (and ethically questionable) veal with some humble salmon and…I don’t even make a roux! Or add eggs! Instead, I let the modest potato do their thickening work for them. Mine is a little more soupy than stewy, but that’s how I like it. Further to this, I aim to do a vegan version in the not too distant future.
Take that, vile, French snooty-pantses! I bite my thumb in your general direction and show you the bows!
This recipe makes six meal-sized servings.
What you need:
- 1/2 cup butter (approximately)
- 1 lb salmon fillets, bones removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 8 oz white mushrooms, halved
- 1 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 leek, halved and cut in 1/2 inch slices
- 1 large potato, diced
- 2 carrots, halved and cut in 1/2 inch slices
- 1 celery stalk, cut in 1/2 inch slices
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 2 cups poultry or veg stock
- 2 cups cold water
- 1 bouquet garni of French tarragon, savoury and parsley
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1/4 cup of dry white wine or vermouth
- Salt and pepper to taste
What you do:
- Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium-low heat.
- In individual batches, cook the salmon, mushrooms, asparagus and leeks, each in a pat of butter and until just cooked – al dente, if you will – without letting them brown.
- Once each batch of the above is cooked, set aside in a large bowl.
- Add the remaining butter to the pot and, once that has melted, add the potato, carrots and celery.
- Cook those just until the potatoes begin to stick to the bottom of the pot. Again, do not brown.
- Deglaze the pot with a little of the water or stock, then add the remaining water, stock, bouquet garni and nutmeg.
- Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are al dente.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the previously fried ingredients.
- Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Add the evaporated milk and wine and let simmer another 5 minutes.
- Season to taste (or let eaters do this themselves).
- Remove the bouquet garni and serve in bowls with crusty bread…or not because this dish is plenty hearty on its own.