All very fishy


The second instalment of my cooking course came under the heading of  “Tout poisson”. We prepared two main courses, one with a very nice white fish I hadn’t come across before (sandre) and another with scalops:

  • Pavé de sandre rôti à l’unilaterale, poêlée de champignons
  • Petite blanquette de noix de Saint Jacques

The fish came as thin fillets which were simply pan-fried in a bit of olive oil. Start with the skin down, on a high heat,  and cooked more slowly on the cut side.  Easy as peas, can’t really go wrong, but make sure not to overcook, i.e. the fish should easily come apart but should still have a bit of a shine to it. In this case it took about 3 minutes but of course that depends on the size of the fillets. This was served with three different types of mushrooms, morilles (re-hydrated), fresh chanterelles and fresh cèpes. These were smothered in butter with sjalots (finely chopped) and garlic. The key is to cook the mushrooms slowly. Because of their very different sizes and textures it is important to cook the mushrooms separately, the chanterelles hardly took any time at all, the cèpes were on the stove for at least 45 minuts. The champignons were finished off with a “demi-glace” du fond de veau. This is essentially a heavily reduced stock or jus, made with meat (in this case veal) and aromatised with vegetables like carrots, onions etc… It takes a long time to prepare these, and Alain had one ready that had been on the go for at least 6 hours. Anyway the result was stunning, and it was interesting to be able to compare the different types of mushrooms in one dish.

The scalops were poached in a fumet. This is a fancy word for a fish stock, again Alain had one prepared for us earlier.  Before cooking the scalops we used the same fumet to cook some lardons and the vegetables (carrots, celery and courgette, all cut to olive sized pieces), this was done in sequence because again it takes longer to cook a carrot than a mushroom…… Cooking the lardons and veg in the fumet has two benefits: the veg obtains a lovely rich taste, and the fumet absorbes some of the taste from the veg.  After the lardons and veg were done, we used half of the fumet to make a velouté by adding it to some flour and combining it with a mixture of egg-yokes and cream, which resulted in an amazingly rich whitish sauce. The other half was use to poach the scalops. Again the end result was stunning.

All of this was enjoyed with a very decent white wine: Domaine de Sancet (Vin de pays de Gascogne), and as if two main courses wasn’t enough there happened to be a very nice chocolat desert in the fridge for us.

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