Fillets of Sea Bass with Fennel & Courgettes, scented with Provencal Herbs, baked in Paper Parcel.
When the theme came up I knew I would do Cuisine Provencal. What the south has a lot to offer? Lots of seafood and sun kissed vegetables.
In South of France, I have experienced haute cuisineâ€¦at Chateau de Eza and some fine establishments in Monaco, Cap Jean Ferrat, Villefranche Sur Mer, Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Biot and St Tropez.
But French food can be so terrific even in small brasserie where old men smoke and drinkâ€¦
I have even sat down at little brasseries next the the marche and ate fantastic steak frites.
Few times I went to the charcuteries and bought cold meat, delicacies, bought fruits and sat on the rocks with my baguette.
I am not an expert on French cooking but I admit having spent the last 6 summers in Cote d Azur certainly is long enough to have a love affair with their food.
Having said that I have spent my time along the coast line itâ€™s a natural I would choose fish.
So I choose fish cooked in a paper parcel. You can vary the kind of fish here, it can be rouget (red mullet) , dorade (sea bream) or turbot.
Cooking in pappilotte, means the flavour cannot escape, the parcel intensifies. The fish inside the parcel is cooked by the steam from the vegetables and fish stock.
This dish is very light and healthy. Although I have eaten this one long before I have stepped my foot in France, nothing can really compare when you actually eat this dish where it has come from.
One of my finest memory of having papillotte de rouget (red mullet) was in Monte Carlo (I know itâ€™s not France but few mins walk you are already in the border. Nothing much different except that itâ€™s a principality ruled by the Grimaldis). We booked seats at St Benoit, which is a few steps away from the renowned Hotel Hermitage and the Hotel de Paris.
St Benoit offers “La Cuisine de la Mer“, Kitchen of the Sea. Such memorable dinner with its terrace offers a panoramic view of the the port of Montecarlo.
Now I am re creating almost of the same dish but this time this is inspired by a recipe I found on Raymond Blancâ€™s Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons.
This recipe is not difficult but rather needs a lot of patience. The preparation involves the following
2) Preparing of fish stock
3) Preparing the garnishes in which are cooked separately
4) Assembling the pappilottes
2 fillets of seabass
1 egg white
2 tbsp olive oil
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 basil leaves ( I didnâ€™t have any but this will add extra flavour)
freshly ground pepper
Bones and head of the fish
2 tomatoes chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 basil leaves
25ml dry white wine
salt & pepper
2 saffron potatoes (Pommes de Terre Aux pistils de safran)
2 small courgettes sliced
2 fennel sliced
sprigs of rosemary
trimmings of fennel
MARINATING THE FISH
1) Sprinkle the fillets with pepper
2) Add the marinade
3)Leave to marinate for an hr at room temperature
1) Ask you fishmonger to scale, gut and fillet them.
2) Keep the bones and head
3) In a saucepan combine all the chopped vegetables, fish, wine
4) Add 200ml water and bring to boil.
5) Skim and simmer gently for 10 mins
6) Let it rest to infuse the flavour
7) Pass the juices through a strainer
8) Put it back to pan reduce the stock.
9) Season to taste, add lemon
Since I used potato saffron, fennel and courgettes you will need to cook these separately. You can vary the vegetables as long you retain the Provencal touch.
A) Saffron Potatoes -( Pommes de Terre Aux pistils de safran)
1) Peel potatoes and trim them to barrel shape
3) Place potatoes in a sautÃ© pan, add water, a pinch of salt and saffron threads
4) Cook till soft and season
1) Trim and slice fennel
2) Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil
3) Gently fry fennel till soft and light brown.
1) Slice and fry in a little olive oil till light brown.
2) Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 2 mins.
ASSEMBLING THE PAPPILOTTES
1) Preheat oven to 230C
2) Lightly salt the inside of the sea bass
3) Lightly break the egg white with a fork
4) Cut out 2 14â€ in circles of grease proof paper
5) Brush a little egg white around the edges
6) Arrange fennels on the lower half
7) Add a tsp of stock
8) Lay fish fillet on the bed of fennels
9) Add the saffron potatoes and add remaining fennels and courgettes.
10) Top with a sprig of rosemary
11) Season with grounded pepper.
12) Fold over the greaseproof paper and fold over edges to seal the juices.
COOKING THE PAPPILOTTES
1) Bake on a large lightly oiled tray
2) Bake for 8mins
3) Observe cooking time because there is strong built up of heat.
1) Prepare plates
2) Present the papillottes on the dish
3) Open them up and serve on plates still wrapped in a parcel.
For the wine, Cotes de Provence this is the only French Rose I found at Carrefour. Fresh and fruity and I could feel the summer days of Provence.
Had I gone to a fancier cava in town, surely I would find Chateau Minuty , Chateau Roseline or maybe DomainOtt.
Such long time to prepare, quick to cook and disappeared fast from my plate.
Sipping my wine I contemplated the years spent in South of France.
Wont be long I will be back there very soon.