I prepared this recipe recently for a Master Class given at Wise Traditions, the 18th annual conference of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and everyone agreed, you haven’t lived until you have tasted this creamy fish sauce.
Ideally you start with a whole fish, about 5 pounds, or two smaller fish, 2-3 pounds each. Whomever catches the fish for you—or whomever you buy it from–should gut the fish and remove the scales and gills. You can also ask them to remove the filets, but is it not hard to do yourself if you have a good sharp, flexible knife, called a fish fileting knife. Start at the top of the fish and gently remove the flesh from the ribs, being careful to always point the knife away from you. There’s no need to remove the skin.
Sea bass is best—it has smooth white flesh, but almost any non-oily fish will do. I used rock fish for this recipe and the class.
- 1 whole fish, about 4-5 pounds, very fresh, gutted, with gills and scales removed
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup white wine or dry vermouth
- 1 small bunch fresh parsley
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 2 zucchinis, cut in a julienne
- 2 carrots, cut in a julienne
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 cups crème fraiche
Remove the filets from the fish and cut into 6-8 equal pieces. Place the filets skin side down in a pyrex casserole that has been brushed with melted butter. Brush filets with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and cover with the julienne of zucchini and carrots. Cover and reserve in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, gently cook the chopped onion and carrot in 4 tablespoons butter. When the vegetables are soft, add 1 cup white wine or dry vermouth and bring to a boil. Add the fish carcass and enough water to cover the carcass. Tie the parsley and bay leaves together and add to the pot. Bring to a boil and skim any scum that comes to the top. Reduce to a simmer and add the peppercorns. Cover and simmer ½ hour.
Remove the fish carcass from the soup and set aside. Strain about 12 cups of the stock into a large stainless steel frying pan and bring to a boil. Skim any scum that comes to the top. (Reserve remaining stock for soup.) Add the crème fraiche and boil vigorously, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces to the thickness of heavy cream and coats a wooden spoon. Meanwhile, bake the fish in a 350 degree oven about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Keep the fish warm until serving time.
To serve, place a piece of fish with julienne of vegetables in a shallow soup bowl and pour the sauce over and around the fish. Serve with potato wedges cooked in goose fat.
A few notes:
- You can prepare everything ahead of time except baking the fish. Just before dinner, bake the fish. When you reheat the sauce (gently), stir with a whisk to remove any lumps and add a little water if necessary. Your guests will think you are a magician!
- If you have frozen fish stock, you can make this dish very quickly. Buy the fish filets and cook as above. Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts stock to a boil with 2 cups crème fraiche, and reduce as described above.
- The details count in this recipe. The one carrot used in making the stock adds just the right amount of sweetness. Most recipes would call for fresh thyme sprigs in the bouquet garni, but I find that overpowers the delicate taste of the sauce. However, I do use more parsley than is usually called for.
- Classic French cookbooks would call for poaching the fish in fish stock. But I find that you then have to contend with mopping up all the poaching liquid to prevent diluting the sauce. Baking solves the problem and works just as well.
- This sauce is good for you! Remember that old South American proverb, “Fish broth will cure anything.” What a wonderful way to be cured!
- You will have leftover fish stock that you can use to make fish soup. After the fish carcass has cooled, pick off the remaining flesh. Chop it fine and add to the stock, along with any leftover julienne of zucchini and carrot. Serve with a good quality miso.