In case you’re following my (almost) daily dinner announcements over on Google+, you may have noticed a new and pretty popular dish on our menu: a pan-fried filet of white fish with a ragout of potatoes, onions and mushrooms, and sauce vierge.
I think it pretty easy to make, and very rewarding. The reactions so far have always been very positive, so I feel confident to say that you will love this.
In chronological cooking order:
If you’re using dried mushrooms, get them soaking at least 6 hours before the event. Use a 1:1 mix of hot water and cold milk, add the dried mushrooms, and stir occasionally. For fresh mushrooms, use Girolle or Cep, or maybe dehydrated Portobellos. Or leave them out; I find the ‘shrooms add depth in flavour, but they aren’t essential to the dish.
Next, as far ahead of the event as you like, steam some waxy potatoes. I scrub them clean and cut out all the little oddities, but leave the remaining skin on for a rustic appearance and extra flavour. Steam them in a closed lid pot with 1/2pt water, a teaspoon of salt and a few cumin seeds and fennel seeds. This takes ~20 minutes. Drain and let cool down.
Now, prepare the Sauce Vierge, or my variation thereof – it doesn’t need to be done early, but it can be done early. Something else out of the way, ey? So, take fresh flat parsley, a few mint leaves, and a couple of spring onions or shallots. Wash if you must, but be sure to dry well, and chop finely. Add some chopped capers (I prefer the salted, crispy type, but make sure to remove the salt without rinsing). You could also add finely chopped anchovies, or olives, or other herbs (sorrel comes to mind), depending where you want to take it. Add a sprinkle of sea salt, a tiny bit of nutmeg, a little black pepper. Mix well and set aside.
Filet the fish. I use Red Mullet, Sea Bream or Sea Bass. John Dory would also work well, I think. Scale, gut and rinse, then take out both filets. I find it is easiest to cut down the back, along the bones down to the spine on both sides before taking any of the filets off, but the choice of method is yours. Leave the skin on, and try to make stock from the rest of the fish rather than throwing it away. Set aside.
Now it’s time to Rock’n’Roll (12 minutes to serving time):
Heat a frying pan. Chop the potatoes into thick slices, and fry gently in a small amount of butter and olive oil. Add coarsely chopped spring onions (for a spring onion potato ragout) or finely diced red onions (for a red onion potato…), drain the mushrooms (keep the liquid!) and add the ‘shrooms. Fry and stir. Add a splash of dry white wine and a splash of the mushroom soaking liquid (multiples of this combination as necessary to keep it all nicely moist – moist, not wet!). Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Meanwhile, heat another pan (with a little 1:1 butter and olive oil, as before). Toss the fish filets in some salted and peppered corn semolina. This is corn flour, really. Real semolina is made from Durum wheat, but I mean finely ground maize. In Britain, Corn Flour also means corn starch, but I didn’t mean to suggest you should coat the fish in Mondamin – no. Use some nice yellow fine corn flour or corn semolina.
Gently fry the fillets on both sides, crisping the skin. This takes a about 2 minutes each side, depending on type of fish, thickness and heat. Be gentle with the heat. (If you find that it takes longer, flip over frequently rather than letting it burn on one side for a long time.)
Meanwhile, heat a ladle of olive oil (maybe 100ml) until it is very hot but not yet burning. When you see or smell smoke from the skillet, it’s too late and the oil too hot. When it’s just right, hot but not yet smoking, pour over the herb mix prepared earlier, and toss it violently to wilt the herbs while cooling down the oil. The herbs release all their oils in the process. Add a splash of lime juice or too, to taste.
Plating up is all that is left:
I use cooking rings to plate the potato ragout, because they help keeping things together. A portion of the ragout, a fillet on top, and spoon the sauce over the fish and around.
Et voila! Pan-fried fillet of white fish, served with a potato ragout and sauce vierge.