September 1997

Topsham, Devon 2 September 1997 Our 19th wedding anniversary coincides with the last day of summer: the children are back to school tomorrow. So it's out to lunch at Nello's with Guy and Bella, then early to bed for them, and a celebration meal for us. What to cook?
It's Tuesday, so Derek, the mobile fishmonger has his van parked in front of Matthews Hall. "No sea bass today," says Derek, "tide's not right. But as we come back on springs next week, we should be catching again." That's no help for tonight, Derek; instead I choose some glistening fillets of red sea bream, a small monkfish tail and some Scottish salmon fillets. Derek also throws in two brill carcases and a meaty salmon head, perfect for making a concentrated fish stock, the basis for my rich red wine sauce.
Guy manages to wangle staying up to be the wine bearer -- we begin with a delicious flûte of La Versa sparkling wine from Lombardy's Oltrepò Pavese while munching on a platter of crudités with Tuscan extra virgin olive oil and coarse sea salt. Then it's off to bed for Guy and for us a candlelit dîner à deux...

A Trio of Fish in a Rich Red Wine Sauce

1 fillet of red sea bream, cut in two; 2 small fillets of salmon; a monkfish tail (choose any selection of fish, the freshest available though we suggest that more robust and full-bodied varieties are best to stand up to the concentrated red wine sauce)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dusting of wild fennel powder (if available)

For the Fish Stock

Fish bones and carcases for making stock, whatever your fishmonger has available, about 2 lbs in weight

2 legs of celery, chopped

Half a bulb of fennel

Two carrots, sliced

A red onion, peeled and sliced

4 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped

For the Red Wine Sauce

Half a bottle of full-bodied but not too tannic red wine (a fruity Beaujolais, Pinot Noir or Dolcetto)

3 tablespoons of crème de cassis blackcurrant liqueur

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cooked green beans or mangetout

First make the fish stock: add the fish bones and carcases to a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and skim, then simmer gently for about 40 minutes. Remove the bones from the pot, then add the vegetables and simmer for a further half hour. Strain through a fine seive (or muslin) and transfer to a clean saucepan.
In the meantime, bone the monkfish and be sure and remove the transparent membrane (if you leave this on, it contracts while cooking and causes the fish to twist into unsightly shapes!). Cut into nice chunks. Trim the sea bream and salmon fillets into neat pieces. Marinade the sea bream and monkfish in the olive oil and wild fennel. Season with salt and pepper.
Keep aside a couple of large ladlefuls of fish stock in which to poach the salmon. Reduce the remaining fish stock to about 300 ml, then add the red wine. Bring to the boil, and further reduce by at least half until the sauce is thick (the bubbles on the surface become much larger and the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon). Add the crème de cassis, season to taste with salt and pepper, and just before serving, swirl in the cubes of unsalted butter.
To cook the fish, grill the sea bream and monkfish for no more than two minutes a side, and gently poach the salmon fillets in the remaining fish stock for about 4 minutes (we like our fish slightly underdone).

Ladle some of the red wine sauce into large bowls, arrange the trio of fish on the sauce, and garnish with green beans or mangetout. Dribble a little more sauce over both the fish and vegetables and serve at once.

Wine Suggestion: Though the general rule is white wine with fish, we often enjoy red wine with such robust fish casseroles, in this case and for our celebration meal a bottle of Gianpaolo Pacini's classy and elegant super-Tuscan Querciagrande 1992. Alternatively, this fish would go well with a not too delicate oaked Chardonnay from Australia or Napa Valley.

Copyright © Marc Millon 2000


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Copyright © Marc and Kim Millon 2000