Yup, I've been teasing you all for weeks now, promising but not delivering whole roasted fish. But apparently this weekend was the time... the stars aligned, the fishmonger delivered his bounty, and I have for you a Whole Roasted Fish Basquaise. Huzzah!
Now I like whole fish a lot. I know two Thai restaurants, one near my house and one near my office, that serve incredible whole fish dishes, so I'm no stranger to how good the stuff is, or how to eat it (eat the skin, scrape the yummy meat from the bone with a fork). But I have never actually made it before, so it's a new and different kitchen adventure for me. And imagine my shock and horror as, while walking to the store to pick up the fish, I ask Husband J whether he is excited for dinner tonight and he says "well, I don't really like fish that much." OH MY GOD!!! My biggest fan and he doesn't like fish that much? WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
Will I step up my game and make a fish dish that Husband J will like?
Will I man up and eat meat from the head?
And will I, as Husband J keeps asking, eat the eyeball?
Only time will tell folks. Come with me on my whole fish journey!
(I need some good intro music, like Carl Sagan.)
So, anything "Basquaise," is going to have a few basic elements to it (at least in the Les Halles Cookbook). Green and red bell peppers, white wine, garlic, onions and parsley are common ingredients in whole fish Basquaise, moules Basquaise, and poulet Basquaise. And let me say, all of these ingredients together are freaking fantastic. And another weird thing about these dishes... no butter, just olive oil, since really the recipes are more Spanish than French. (It's a nice break really, though I used my fair share of butter making some pear and sweet potato hand pies for the coming week.)
So let's get started. First, potatoes go into the pot and boil for 10 minutes, until just tender. Then, the red and green peppers and an onion get sauteed in a roasting pan in some olive oil, with garlic and thyme leaves tossed in after a few minutes.
Next, add white wine and chicken stock to the veggies and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, salt and pepper the outside and inside of the fish. The fish and potato wedges go into the roasting pan, and the pan into a 400 degree oven for half an hour.
The house began to smell really wonderful by this time--not fishy, but that wonderful mix of onion, garlic and herbs with wine and chicken broth with the nice meaty fish in the background.
Once the fish has roasted, it comes out of the pan and onto a baking sheet, and under a high broiler for a few minutes for the skin to crisp a bit. Then stir the lemon into the sauce, give it a bit of heat, and pour over the fish on a serving platter.
The verdict? Well in my opinion it was absolutely delicious. The sauce was really amazing, and we used slices of bread to mop it up. The fish was really perfect, very tender and juicy, not dry at all. It really rans up with one of the best whole fishes I've eaten.
And what about Husband J who doesn't much like fish? He says "It was good. It was a tasty fish." Even though he doesn't really like fish.
And then the final question I know you are all thinking... did she make like Tony and eat the eyeball?
Um, no. I'll eat a heart, which is a muscle, but a jelly organ like an eyeball is pushing it. Husband J teased me by forking one of the eyeballs up out of the socket, but it was so gelatinous and horrible that he dropped the fork immediately. That was the end of that. I did eat the cheeks though, and though the meat was very nice and tender, I didn't think it was incredibly special. But overall, it was lovely.
BLEEEAHHH I'M DELICIOUSSSSS!!!
Lessons learned: Tony is right, fish does taste better on the bone. Sometimes a break from butter is pretty nice.
Next Week: Tough to say again... I may need to make a concerted effort to get those veal bones for stock.