Roast Salmon with 2014 Branciforte Creek Buerre Rouge
Buerre Rouge is the same as it’s well known sibling Buerre Blanc, except it’s made with red wine rather than white. This pairs beautifully with rich salmon roasted so it has a crispy top. Although it seems like a lot of butter, remember it is divided by four. The sauce is a great basic sauce to master as it is so easy to modify. In this case, the addition of peppercorns that have been dry-fried to mitigate heat and elevate floral notes and adding some thyme all bring the sauce in line with the Creek Pinot. If you have the ability to cedar plank the salmon, you might give that a shot as the wine really does have lovely wood notes. When making this sauce, be patient and pay attention, especially the first few times.
4 6-ounce pieces of salmon, skinned
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, dry fried until fragrant, then immediately transferred to a cool bowl*
1 small fresh thyme sprig
¾ cup/6-ounces ’14 Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir
1 stick + 2 tablespoons butter**, cut into ¼-inch bits and kept cold until needed (Use a good, dense butter without a lot of water in it. Trader Joe’s Cultured Butter from Brittany is great, or something like Kerry Gold or Straus Farms works also. Salted or not, doesn’t really matter, you just adjust salt added at end.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 450°F. Place a rack in center of oven.
Heat a small (3-cups or 1-quart is ideal) non-reactive heavy pan over medium heat for a couple minutes. Add a little butter, when foaming add the shallots. Cook until clear, add the peppercorns and thyme. Cook 30 seconds, then add the wine. Cook at a gentle simmer until wine reduces by 80%. The ingredients should be getting syrupy.
Lower heat and pull pan to the side. Begin adding butter a bit at a time, whisking until each cube has emulsified/blended into the shallot wine mixture. Keep adding butter a bit at a time, whisking all along. If things turn sluggish, put pan over heat and keep adding butter. If the butter starts melting really fast, remove pan from heat and keep whisking, and add a couple three butter bits to slow things down. When the stick of butter is in and thoroughly whisked, the sauce should be a nice shade of creamy red that pours off a spoon slowly. Taste and add salt as needed, whisking it in. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a thermos and set aside until ready.
Heat a steel pan (or other heavy oven proof pan) over medium-high heat.
Wipe a little oil on salmon tops. Season salmon with salt and pepper. When pan is crackling hot, add salmon skin side up, being sure to leave ¼-inch between each piece. Cook the salmon for 4 minutes, until you see 1/8th inch or more of the fish in contact with the pan turn white. Put the pan into the oven, noting how long it was on the stove-top. If your salmon is 1½ inches at its thickest point, the fish will take about 12 minutes total time cooking to reach a uniform doneness. If it is 1 inch, it’ll take 8 inches. Cook in the oven until done according to thickness. REMEMBER- the pan is bloody HOT! Transfer fish to plates, turning so the now crackling crisp top deck of the fish is up. Sauce from the thermos just before serving. Potatoes or farro, and roasted green beans and thinly sliced fennel with a few fennel seeds would be excellent accompaniments with this dish.
Chef’s Notes: *Try to find larger peppercorns such as Sarawak or Tellicherry as they are less hot and more fruity/floral, especially after being dry-fried.**Good butter is key here. With so few parts to the sauce there is nowhere for things to hide. This sauce is worth spending a little extra for the butter. Once you’ve done this sauce a couple times, it becomes quite easy, and riffing on it becomes fun, and comes together fast.