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What is flour's role in a blanc?

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Just watched part of the Jacques & Julia episode on vegetables, wherein she uses a classic blanc of water, lemon juice, and flour for simmering artichoke hearts. The anti-browning properties of the lemon are obvious, but why the flour? (I don't own MtAoFC or I'd look it up myself.)

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  1. Just a guess, perhaps the flour thickens the Beurre Blanc causing it to coat the artichoke with the flavorful sauce. But I'm as much in the dark as you are on this one. I'm certain I've never heard of a Beurre Blanc containing flour; or any thickening agent.

    1 Reply
    1. re: todao

      It's not a beurre blanc, but a blanc -- confusing, I know. The blanc is the poaching liquid for the artichokes, with the lemon to prevent browning, and supposedly "the flour counterbalances the acidity of the lemon and makes the artichokes more tender." http://www.spain-recipes.com/menestra...

      Julia Child used the lemony, slightly thickened poaching liquid as a veloute base for Cream of Artichoke soup, saying, "It is a shame to waste expensive artichoke flavor, especially when you could get some meat off the discarded leaves, and could easily cook 1 or 2 more bottoms for such as elegant soup.” More info and the recipe here: http://www.labellecuisine.com/archive...

      I'm not sure I buy the flour explanation, but it's the best reason I've heard.

    2. A blanc is a court-bouillon made of water, salt, flour, vinegar or lemon juice, and the usual other stuff. But just a TBSP of flour to a quart of water. Good for cooking giblets (and other odd bits like cockscombs and kidneys) and good for cooking artichokes. I think - but may be wrong - that the flour neutralizes what otherwise are seen as strong, slightly off, or somehow innappropriate touches of flavor.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        I tend to agree Sam. Flour is more acidic than alkaline so it's improbable that it would "neutralize" any of the lemons acidity. I suppose it could be said that it may velvetize the blanc and thereby produce a sensation of lighter texture to the mouth feel of the artichoke; but I'm obviously just guessing there.
        And thanks for the lesson. I've always held that a court-bouillon, although simple, was somewhat less complex than the blanc, in that it contains no butter. I'm also curious about the term with respect to the recipe under discussion because if the Julia Child recipe incorporated a cream of artichoke soup then, because of the presence of cream, it should be considered to be something closer to a Beurre nantais than anything else.

        1. re: todao

          Two different recipes. The soup is a way to make use of the blanc from cooking the artichoke hearts, which are served whole. More liquid and bottoms hearts are added to make soup.

          1. re: todao

            The blanc contains no butter: it is simply water, lemon, and a bit of flour in which the artichoke hearts are poached.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/...

              Blanc
              Noun

              (n) blanc (a white sauce of fat {e.g. butter}, broth, and vegetables (used especially with braised meat))

              Just adds to the confusion, doesn't it? If beurre = butter and blanc = white then beurre blanc should include butter while blanc should not. But depending on where you research the common uses for the competing terms, each seems to be used interchangeably. Drives culinary students nuts ....
              Thanks, fellow chowhounds. Enjoyed the discussion.

              1. re: todao

                I was describing the blanc in Julia Child's recipe, which greygarious referred to in her OP. The recipe is in the second link given by maria lorraine above.

                1. re: todao

                  Blanc is short for blanc de cuisson.

                  The lemon (acidity) is obviously to prevent oxidation.
                  My guess is the role of the flour is to absorb impurities. In the case of artichokes, cynarin.