Steamed/poached fish, Asian inspired

just before steaming

Just before Christmas, I came up with this simple preparation of sea bream – it turned out to be one of the best ways to eat a big whole fish. I immediately twittered about it so at least I wouldn’t forget what basically went in there, but didn’t have high hopes to ever replicate the experience again.

Over Christmas and New Year we had some friends visiting from Germany, and one of the days was already set aside as “play day” – on which we go to the market, buy whatever is fresh and catches our eye, come home and prepare / cook it together and eat. We eat many courses. We eat in the kitchen and in the dining room. We eat for hours. Oh, and we drink wine, do I have to mention that?

Where was I? Yes, play day, and the menu for the day turned out to be with an emphasis on fish, and one of the courses was my try to recreate that Asian inspired steamed fish. And it did work! There is no set recipe for it, but these are the guidelines.

Ingredients: Get a whole, cleaned white fleshed fish that is around 1 to 1,5 kg (Sea bream in my case). This can feed 2 as an only course or up to 6 as part of a multi course menu. The poaching liquid I concocted was about 200ml stock (vegetable in my case, but you could also use fish or chicken), a generous dash of soy sauce, one minced chili (adjust according to the heat you want but definitely check the hotness before cooking the fish) and a dash of lime juice. As additional flavoring I covered the fish with thin slices/sticks of ginger, garlic and leeks. I think ginger and garlic are essential but the leeks can be substituted by scallions. I also stuffed the belly of the fish with parsley, you could substitute cilantro (harder to find in my neck of the woods) or omit it completely. Do not substitute bay laurels, that is a flavor direction that doesn’t fit with the theme of this dish (though I usually always add laurel to my fish dishes).

The main point of the technique is to steam/poach the fish very gently in a sauce, so you need a (slightly) rimmed plate where the fish can fit in (at least the main body part of it) and a pot/pan with a lid that can accommodate this plate. Place a little bowl in the big pan and place the plate on it. Add some water to the pan, paying attention it doesn’t reach the plate (take into consideration that the water will boil and thus throw bubbles later). Make 2-3 rather superficial cuts on both sides of the fish and place it on the plate. Pour your poaching liquid carefully over it. Cover the fish with ginger, garlic, leeks etc. Place the lid over your construction and put it on a medium-high heat on the stove. Let steam and poach for 25 minutes. Wear oven mittens and be very careful when you remove the lid at the end of this time – steam is very hot and can cause burns! Remove the lid carefully but quickly and decisively.

Divide the fish and serve with a spoon or two of the poaching liquid as well as the vegetables. Do not forget to dunk fresh wheat bread into the sauce!

Eat Fish Week: Trout Strudel

I will be on an island all week, and a bad conscience has been nagging all the time. Have so much stuff to blog about but so little time. So here you are: my folders give enough material for a whole fish week. You won’t find exact recipes for anything, just an idea of what I threw together. It is meant to inspire you. And if I find a begging comment about some real recipe when I come back, I might think about it!

trout strudel

Let’s get fancy. This is the signature dish of an Austrian restaurant I used to love and have already written about. Used to, because last time we were there with some blogfriends, the experience was less than stellar and I am not very keen on taking my hard earned money there soon. But this dish, it is really good. So I researched and found this recipe online, it was authorized by the cook himself, but it wouldn’t work. Believe me, I am not a novice in the kitchen and I can notice and fix broken recipes, but this one, no. So no recipe here, not even a source, but just an inspiration: Make a strudel, fill it with a farce of mushrooms and a piece of fresh trout fillet. Let me know if you have a great experience!

inner life

Excuse the bad picture, it was sooo late as I was finally done with this un-obeying recipe!

Eat Fish Week: Tuna Steak

I will be on an island all week, and a bad conscience has been nagging all the time. Have so much stuff to blog about but so little time. So here you are: my folders give enough material for a whole fish week. You won’t find exact recipes for anything, just an idea of what I threw together. It is meant to inspire you. And if I find a begging comment about some real recipe when I come back, I might think about it!

Tuna Steak with Vegetables

This is the only way tuna should be eaten, except for raw: cooked rare, very rare. I buy thick slices, marinate them if I have the time (here with three-color peppers and soy sauce) and then braise them very quickly in a hot pan. Important point is to get the tuna to room temperature before frying, so that the inner parts won’t be cold. Serve with stir-fired vegetables. Yumm!

Eat Fish Week: Anchovies

I will be on an island all week, and a bad conscience has been nagging all the time. Have so much stuff to blog about but so little time. So here you are: my folders give enough material for a whole fish week. You won’t find exact recipes for anything, just an idea of what I threw together. It is meant to inspire you. And if I find a begging comment about some real recipe when I come back, I might think about it!

anchovies casserole

Yes, I use my oven a lot. I find it very convenient to put something in the oven and then forget about it for some time. This “casserole” here consists of some butterflied anchovies (you could use sardines, too) on a bed of asparagus (hurry up, this is the last week to enjoy asparagus!) and adorned by some cherry-tomatoes on the vine. About butterflying small fish: as said yesterday, let the fish monger do it!

Eat Fish Week: Pasta With Fish

I will be on an island all week, and a bad conscience has been nagging all the time. Have so much stuff to blog about but so little time. So here you are: my folders give enough material for a whole fish week. You won’t find exact recipes for anything, just an idea of what I threw together. It is meant to inspire you. And if I find a begging comment about some real recipe when I come back, I might think about it!

Pasta, alici, arancio

Here are two fishy pasta favorites, that I offer my fish and pasta-loving husband again and again. The first one (above) is the recreation of a pasta dish we had years ago in Alessandria up north, of all places. We were so intrigued by the combination of anchovies, (blood-) orange segments and mint that I had to tinker at home to find the right combination. My advice: Let the fishmonger butterfly the anchovies for you, it can be done at home but takes such a long time (and not everybody is willing to do this bloody job!).

pasta melanzane spada

Another favorite pasta combination, this one we picked up in Sicily: Eggplants, swordfish (in times of dire I have made this dish with almost any readily available fish-fillet and it works always!) and, yes, mint again. Try this!

Eat Fish Week: Cuttlefish

I will be on an island all week, and a bad conscience has been nagging all the time. Have so much stuff to blog about but so little time. So here you are: my folders give enough material for a whole fish week. You won’t find exact recipes for anything, just an idea of what I threw together. It is meant to inspire you. And if I find a begging comment about some real recipe when I come back, I might think about it!

cuttlefish

Ok, you are right, this one here, the cuttlefish, or seppia, is not necessarily a lot more nicer looking than yesterday’s dragonfish, but it does taste as fine, especially when filled – second day, second filled fish – is this going to be a theme? Well, technically, this is not a fish!

Chop the heads off and a) deep-fry and eat separately (sorry, no picture, gone too quick!) b) put them on a skewer, grill and serve with chopped mint, olive oil and balsamic vinegar (no picture again, no good light that time) c) fry them with bulbs of young garlic (in season) and use to fill up the main body parts!

the heads with some young garlic bulbs

This is one of my versions, layer 1:

Seppia_layer with vegetables

Basically, just get whatever vegetables are in season, add some stock or white wine or even water and put it in the oven.

Layer 2:

seppia_even more vegetables

By the way, learn from my mistakes: leave the artichokes out. They don’t work in this combo.

Here is another version:

Seppia_shallots

Shallots fit perfectly into the cavities of the seppia. And then go on with other vegetables:

seppia_other vegetables

Believe me, almost any combo goes. Take what vegetables your farmers market offers, whatever is in season, puts some herbs and some liquid and then into the oven with it. That was it!

Eat Fish Week: Dragonfish

I will be on an island all week, and a bad conscience has been nagging all the time. Have so much stuff to blog about but so little time. So here you are: my folders give enough material for a whole fish week. You won’t find exact recipes for anything, just an idea of what I threw together. It is meant to inspire you. And if I find a begging comment about some real recipe when I come back, I might think about it!

dragonfish

One of our favorite fishes, this ugly baby has firm flesh with a nutty flavor, which we find best treated as little as possible. A hot oven and 30 minutes later, you will have heaven on your plate.

Are you ready for the ugliness?

dragonfish, filled and betted

Are you sure? ok:

ugly fish

I told you!

Filled with chopped parsley, sprinkled with salt and pepper, little bit of olive oil, bedded on orange slices. That’s it!

ugly or beautiful?

See you tomorrow!

see you!