Sunday 15 September 2013
Sea bass fillets with porcini 'en papillote'
Very straightforward, and perfectly delicious. This recipe comes from the River Cafe - not a resource I would often quote (having dined there a couple of times when it first opened, many years ago, I wasn't sufficiently inspired at the time to bother with a third visit....and their cheerfully-coloured volumes of recipes which have appeared over the years have seemed to me to be pretty much of a piece with the restaurant...ok, but basically unexciting); I was sent copies of a whole raft of their books, a couple of months ago, though, and have been picking at them ever since, to see if there's actually anything there. On the Nico Ladenis system that the purchase of a recipe book (or the space it takes up on your shelves, if a gift) is justifed by one recipe from it creeping into your repertoire, then this is the one which does it for me. The flavours here are rich and intense, and since the method allows all the work to be done hours in advance, it lends itself perfectly to entertaining (or to a long soak in the bath after an afternoon's work in the garden, prior to an effortless segue into dinner).
Ingredients: Sea Bass fillets, skin left in place (either two fillets from one large fish, or else four fillets from two smaller beasts - depending on what you can get; recently, I've more often found smaller fish at the fish counter, which are much cheaper than one large beast, and work equally well presentationally for a dish like this); 30g butter; 2 medium garlic cloves; 20g dried porcini; dried thyme; salt.
1. Put the dried porcini in a small bowl and cover generously with boiling water; leave to soak for half an hour or so, then filter the soaking liquid through a sieve lined with kitchen paper (and retain the liquid), and rinse the porcini pieces to remove any remaining grit. Chop the porcini into small pieces.
2. Put the garlic cloves through a press, and, in a small pan, sauté the garlic in the melted butter until soft - a couple of minutes at most. To this, add the chopped porcini, and continue to cook for a minute or so, and then add all of the reserved soaking liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then simmer until reduced to a thickish sauce (a couple of minutes, or so).
3. On a square of greaseproof paper or foil, large enough subsequently to be closed entirely over the fish fillet(s), lay one fillet per serving, and sprinkle this with salt and a little dried thyme, and then spoon over it some of the porcini sauce; if using two smaller fillets per person, then lay the second fillet on top of the first one and repeat the process with salt, thyme, and porcini sauce.
4. Close the paper or foil, to seal the fish properly inside. Lay the packets on a baking sheet or dish and bake for 15 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees C.
To serve, open the packets, and use a fish slice to transfer the contents to heated plates. Goes well with cucumber batons, which have been blanched and then braised in butter.