Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Blanquette de Poisson de la Côte d'Albâtre

If you live along the Normandy coast, then you tend to be zealous in your search for the best, freshest fish. A good poissonnerie or market stall would both be fine but wouldn't it be even better to buy the fish straight off the boats? Which is why people descend on the little seafront town of Quiberville when the catch is in. There's no harbour as such at Quiberville and so the fishing boats, called 'doris', are dragged up the beach by tractor and the catch is sold at roadside stalls.
Quiberville
Although you can be sure that the fish is fresh, you can't guarantee what will turn up in the catch. This recipe is based on the kind of simple, Normandy dish that will make the most of whatever the catch happens to be. You can use any firm white fish fillets of reasonable size and a mix of two or three different types wouldn't be unusual if it's intended to serve a family. Mussels are typically added to this kind of dish along the Côte d'Albâtre, although prawns might be used instead. I used prawns this time because that's what I happened to have. If you're using mussels, then it's easiest to cook them first. Just steam them in a little wine or cider and remove them from the shells. (You can leave some in their shells for decoration if you prefer, although that tends to be a bit messy when it comes to eating the dish).

This works well with just some plain rice, but I love to eat it with a good baguette to soak up the juices. It might sound odd to use a chicken stock with fish but it does add a savoury quality that enhances the overall flavour. Of course, you could use a fish or even a vegetable stock if you prefer.

This will serve 2. And yes I know that it sounds a bit pretentious using a French name for this recipe but it just sounds so much better than ‘White Fish Stew from the Channel’.
Blanquette de Poisson
200 – 250 g firm, skinned white fish fillets, cut into chunks
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
1 medium or large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice or batons
150 ml dry white wine (a Muscadet would be good or you could use a dry cider)
100 g button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
150 ml light chicken stock
8 –12 cooked and shelled mussels or uncooked and shelled prawns
3 tbsp thick crème fraîche
2 or 3 small knobs of butter
a little chervil or parsley to serve

Using a large frying pan or sauté pan with a lid fry the leek and carrot gently in a little butter until the leek has started to soften. Pour in 100 ml of the wine, place the lid on the pan and continue to cook for 10 – 15 minutes over a low heat. Keep an eye on it to make sure that it doesn't dry out. Add a little water if necessary. At the end of this time the leek should be very soft and the carrots should be fairly tender but not mushy.

Remove the lid, add the mushrooms, increase the heat and cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes. Add some seasoning. (If you’re being particularly careful about the whiteness, then use white pepper if you have any). Pour in the remaining 50 ml of wine and the chicken stock. Lower the heat again and add the fish and, if you're using them, add the prawns as well. Cook very gently, stirring and turning the fish to ensure that it cooks evenly. The cooking time for this stage will vary according to the type of fish and the size of the chunks, but it’s unlikely to be more than 5 or 6 minutes.

As soon as the fish and prawns are cooked, stir in the crème fraîche (and the cooked mussels, if that's what you’re using) and allow it to heat through. Serve at once, sprinkled with a little finely chopped chervil or parsley.

8 comments:

  1. It looks delicious. I can almost hear the seagulls and smell the salty air just looking at it - could eat a bowlful right now.
    And you're right, a blanquette always sounds more tempting than a stew of any kind. "Blanquette" conjures up images of sunshine, a French café, crisp white tablecloths, an equally crisp white wine and sparkling glasses. "Stew" is very tasty but makes me think of cold, grey winter days - which I am tired of now.

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    1. I can absolutely guarantee the seagulls in the Quiberville area (you really can't miss them) but I can't guarantee the sunshine on the north coast. In fact, I can't guarantee the crisp white tablecloths everywhere in that area - some of my favourite restaurants have been a bit more laid-back and simple than that, although the food can be really good.

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  2. This will be on the menu at the weekend after I have been to the fish market. It sounds quite delicious. Thanks for sharing Diane

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    1. I hope it works out well for you. It's one of those dishes which doesn't mask the flavour of really good fresh fish from the market.

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  3. This sounds really delicious, and I agree with Jean that 'Blanquette' conjures up a picture of a sunny day at a lovely little French restaurant; by the sea would be a bonus. Stew is for comfort in the winter!

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    1. Well I can't disagree - a little restaurant by the sea on a sunny day would be very, very nice. But even the French words for winter dishes such as carbonnade and estouffade sound better than stew. We need a decent British word - casserole is a better word perhaps but not great.

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  4. Quite simply, it just makes me want to be in France. I think I had something similar to this when I was in Arromanches on a school trip many moons ago. I was a teacher rather than a student; they didn't tend to let scallies like me leave the country back when I was a snotty Scouse schoolkid for fear of my reinforcing the stereotype of not wanting to eat anything I didn't recognise, but my older, more informed, Francophile self knows that this will taste amazing!

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    1. I think I only had a sandwich when I visited Arromanches but that's my fault and not the fault of the town. There were plenty of schoolkids in Arromanches when I was there and I think that's a very good thing. I have a lot of respect for you going with them. Not sure that I could cope with that.

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