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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bleu Cream Sauce

I've had a thing of St. Agur cheese sitting in my fridge for close to a month now. I've been wanting to make something out of it, but just haven't gotten around to it.

St. Agur is a french bleu which is particularly suited to sauces. It has a high moisture content, and contains a relatively large amount of butterfat, so it is perfect for melting.

Anyway, this sauce started off just like most of my other white sauces. I call them white sauces, but a traditional French white sauce should be made from a roux (butter and flour); instead, my 'white' sauces usually start with a vegetable saute to which I will add milk and corn starch. From this base, however, you can still turn it into anything you like really.

So, because I knew this sauce was going to be fairly rich, and that the bleu cheese was most certainly going to take centre stage in terms of the dominant flavour, I figured I could get away with adding a ton of root vegetables. Normally (in a weaker sauce) I'd need to worry about the garlic or the onion exerting dominance in the quantities in which I'm adding them here. However, the bleu is going to be the primary flavour pretty much no matter what I do, so I can add a ton of garlic, onion, fennel bulb, scallion, and pepper, and have them actually balance out the flavours. Which is very awesome.

So, there were quite a bit of these veggies, as you can see, and because texture is a big player in a cream sauce like this, it is absolutely imperative that there be a uniform consistency among the veggies. So into the chopper they go, with a generous splash of olive oil (~ 4 tbsp) for lubrication.



Fennel bulb

White onion

Yellow Chile

After this is nicely pureed, into the saucepan it goes, to be sauteed for about 10 minutes on medium-low, until softened.

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Into this puree, I then added about 1/2 cup of butter, stirred until blended, and 1 cup of homogenized milk (3.25%). Brought this to a simmer, again at medium-low. When you're cooking with dairy, I've found it to be general good practice to never turn the heat up higher than medium (medium-low, is usually sufficient).

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Into this cream sauce I then dumped about 90g of St. Agur cheese, cubed, and turned the mixture down to low.

My gas range still puts out a nice even heat at low, and is very well suited to 'simmer' sauces. If anything, it can be a little too hot still... but with occasional stirring (or in this case, whisking), it's fine.

At this point, I threw in a little bit of cornstarched-milk, in order to thicken it up a little. I probably only added about a teaspoon before it got to a nice thickness.

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Thickness of sauce is highly subjective, some people like runny sauce, some people like thick... I personally find both to have their uses, especially if the right pasta noodle complement is chosen. For this pasta, we were using some tricolore penne, so the sauce could be a little runnier. It is my opinion, that, in general, the more porous the pasta the runnier the sauce can be potentially.

Anyway, at this point, this sauce was just plain gorgeous.  I added a pinch of salt to season.

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While the sauce was simmering, and the pasta was boiling, I prepared (snapped the ends off) some purple asparagus, and put them in my steamer.

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After these were steamed – about 5-8 minutes with a couple of 'shakes' in the middle to redistribute – I plated them and sprinkled a mixture of salt, pepper, and citric acid overtop.

Citric acid sounds scary, but really it's just an anhydrous (no water) form of citric juice like (lemon or lime). I personally LOVE the shit. I use it whenever I would want to use lemon juice, but don't want to change the dynamic of wet to dry constituents. So... perfect for vegetables. I used to sprinkle lemon juice on asparagus, but found they got really soggy, even if only small amounts of juice were used. One day I decided to try some citric acid powder I had in the cupboard. I had used to keep it as an anti-oxidant for fruits and stuff (sprinkle a tiny bit on apples or pears) to prevent them from browning. But, I figured there's no reason why it wouldn't be delicious on some vegetables. The first time I used it, I drastically underestimated its potency, and the dish was so utterly sour. However, the second, and subsequent times, I've used only the slightest of pinches and it turns out quite nice.

So, this is salt, black peppercorns, and the tiniest of pinches of citric acid.

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Anyway, this gets absorbed into the moist asparagus with a real quick and simple toss.

And, let's be honest, these seemed to be, rather inexplicably, covered in bleu cream sauce, every time I raised one to my mouth... vraiement étrange, n'est-ce pas?

As for the pasta – the penne was drained and served with a moderately small amount of sauce per serving. This sauce was very rich, and not very much was needed.

Click to Enlarge this epitome of bad-assed-ness!
It was the most delicious thing I'd put in my mouth in many months. Very high in fat, however.

I counted.

The sauce had 1/2 cup butter (roughly 60g saturated fat), 1 cup 3.25% milk (roughly 5g saturated fat), about 4 tablespoons of olive oil (8g saturated fat), and 90g of cheese @ 33% milk fat whatever that turns out to be. So... if one person were to consume my entire sauce, it would be over 400% their recommended daily intake of saturated fat.

Very rich, extremely delicious, and an excellent treat to have in moderation.

I will often cook this sauce in a low-fat version (more often, in fact, than this full-fat version), and it is quite simply a matter of a few substitutions:
  • Canola oil for the olive oil.
  • Margarine for the butter (this is the big one – 1/2 cup margarine is only about 6g saturated fat!!)
  • Skim milk for the cream.
  • Low-M.F. Cheese (like cottage, or feta) for the bleu.
You'll need to add more cornstarch to this to achieve the same thickness, but it is still wholly delicious.

Not nearly as delicious as this. And if I were to make this to impress, entertain, or serve up in a restaurant, it would in fact be using table cream (18%) instead of the homogenized milk.

That reminds me... if you're interested - my milk-buying habits... I could relate them to you.  I mean, who wouldn't want to hear about my reasoning behind buying two kinds of milk every time?  Perhaps my next post will be just so engaging!  Hold your breath!


  1. Mmmm -- my favorite pasta is penne and my favorite vegetable is asparagus --- although I have not cooked the purple stuff. You sure have a way with pasta!!!

    Is it me or is there a "scraping" sound as background is this post???

  2. The tomato in my header is just ITCHING to be clicked, is all...