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?
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.
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...
of Fish in a Rich Red Wine Sauce
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)
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
of wild fennel powder (if available)
the Fish Stock
and carcases for making stock, whatever your fishmonger has available,
about 2 lbs in weight
of celery, chopped
bulb of fennel
A red onion,
peeled and sliced
of garlic, crushed and chopped
the Red Wine Sauce
bottle of full-bodied but not too tannic red wine (a fruity Beaujolais,
Pinot Noir or Dolcetto)
of crème de cassis blackcurrant liqueur
unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
freshly ground black pepper to taste
green beans or mangetout
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
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).
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.
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
Copyright © Marc Millon