Friday, July 1, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Rougets à la crème d'olives

My local fishmonger in Montmartre
July in France makes me think of the Mediterranean. Of waves and bright sun and things you might feel hungry for even when it’s hot.
     The Mediterranean is also Olive Country. So if we take the sea and the little fish that swim therein, and we add in the unsweet fruit of the olive tree, we get something like this recipe I stole from French chef Philippe DaSilva.
     The rouget is a rockfish that loves the Mediterranean. It’s called red mullet in English. But it evidently is found only in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the eastern part of the North Atlantic. If you live outside the Mullet Zone and it’s unavailable, try substituting red snapper.
     Wikipedia says, "The ancient Romans reared them [red mullets] in ponds where they were attended and caressed by their owners, and taught to come to be fed at the sound of the voice or bell of the keeper. Specimens were sometimes sold for their weight in silver." But Romans also feasted on peacock’s tongues, so I’m not surprised by anything they did.
     The drawback with the rouget is that it has tiny bones and is virtually impossible to fillet perfectly. So even if you do your best, be careful when enjoying it; there may be a few tiny bones left and you don’t want to swallow them.
     As for the rest... enjoy. And think "vacation".

Mediterranean rouget version

  • 20 small green pitted olives
  • 1 c (25 cl) heavy cream
  • 2 T olive oil, and a bit more to sauté the fish
  • ½ lb (200 g) spinach, washed and stems removed
  • 4 rouget fillets
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh marjoram (or oregano)
  • clove of garlic
- Warm the cream without bringing it to a boil. Add the olives and continue to warm for 2-3 minutes. Put the cream, olives and 2 T of olive oil in a mixer or food processor and mix well. Add pepper (and salt, if necessary). Keep this sauce warm.

Snapper version
 - Sweat the spinach in a little olive oil, stirring it with a fork on which you’ve speared a clove of garlic. When the spinach is soft, strain off any liquid.
- Salt and pepper the rouget fillets. Brown them lightly, first on the skin side so they stay flat while cooking. When they’re just crispy, turn them over. Place a few marjoram leaves on each fillet. When the second side is crispy, turn them over again.
- Spread the spinach on a serving dish and lay the rouget fillets on top. Then pour the olive cream around the fillets.
Serves 4.

This can be accompanied by rice or boiled potatoes if a second vegetable is desired.
Serve with a chilled dry sauvignon blanc or rosé wine.

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