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June 2009 COTM Elizabeth David Classics: Fish

Welcome to Elizabeth David Classics, which includes these three books by Elizabeth David:

A Book of Mediterranean Food [M] - "Fish"
Summer Cooking [S] - "Fish"
French Country Cooking [F] - "Fish"

Please post your full-length reviews of recipes here for main course fish dishes (which includes all seafoods) contained in the chapters listed above. If such a dish appears in a chapter the title of which is not covered by one of the categories in the master thread, please post it here anyway. Since there are a number of different editions and some posters have the individual books, please post the abbreviations for the books as listed above, and the name of the recipe, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. That way posters can then look up the recipe in the index of whichever book they have.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Thanks for participating!

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  1. Fish Plaki ( Mediterranean pg 62)

    E.D. writes: "This is a typical Greek way of cooking fish and appears over and over again in different forms." I didn't set out to specifically make this recipe. Rather, I think I absorbed it (somewhat as you shall see) while reading the book one Sunday afternoon. I was also inspired by the "salsa dump" technique discussed on another thread.

    Anyway, my daughter, who gave this recipe a thumb's up, asked me where I got the recipe. I looked back at the book and sure enough, I made Fish Plaki!

    The recipe calls for a large fish, such as bream, chicken turbot or John Dory. I used much larger-than-normal flounder fillets that I had in the freezer. You lay your fish in a baking dish and sprinkle it with salt, pepper and lemon juice. I skipped the pepper as Mr. Clam is allergic to it. Then you fry onions, garlic and parsley in olive oil. Then you add some peeled tomatoes.
    Then water is added and the whole is simmered a few minutes, and then the mixture is poured over the fish. You add a glass of white wine, some more tomatoes and thinly sliced lemon. Cook in oven about 45 minutes.

    Well, that is what you are supposed to do. I simply seasoned the fish with salt and lemon. Then I tossed raw, diced onions, chopped garlic and quartered stewed tomatoes over the fish. Poured a glass of white wine over it, sprinkled it with parsley, and baked it in the oven.

    This dish was simple, delicious and light. Perfect at the end of a hot Sunday afternoon.

    5 Replies
    1. re: clamscasino

      I forgot to add that I served this in soup bowls over pasta in order to capture the juices.

      1. re: clamscasino

        Good Morning Clams.....

        I'm so happy to read your report of this dish as I had planned to make it tonight. Lately our local market has had whole Barramundi and I've been dying to cook it, never having cooked a whole fish. Now I can't wait.

        1. re: clamscasino

          Was the baking time reduced because you used fillets rather than whole fish? This sounds simple and delicious, I will be trying soon!

          1. re: yamalam

            I did not reduce the baking time, however, my fillets were quite thick compared to the typical flounder one would buy/find in a store. (They were given to me by a fisherman friend.) I would carefully monitor your fillets after about 30 minutes though. As always: "cook until done" or until "it flakes apart."

            1. re: clamscasino

              I made Fish Plaki on Friday night, and it was a huge success. Unlike Clams, I did the extra step of sauteeing the onions, garlic and tomato mixture, in part so the kitchen would smell like onions and garlic instead of fish. I used a 1 lb salmon fillet that was 3/4" thick and it only took 25 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

              Very good and tasty, and I usually have the ingredients on hand, so I can see myself making this or a variation again in the future. The only thing I would change is leaving the parsley whole so I could pick the brown stalks out after baking and replace with fresh chopped.

              P.S. My 7 yr old nieces ate their full portions and their mom just texted me WTF is Fish Plocky, the girls want me to learn how to make it:)

        2. Mackeral en Papillotes [F, p. 59]

          Have I ever thought of cooking mackerel before? Of course not. But being an intrepid COTM 'hound and the fish had clear eyes at the fish counter, that mackerel came home with moi.
          For one fish, I did as follows: minced some parsley, capers (I soaked and rinsed), 1 T butter, a strip of lemon peel (minced w/ rest), a pinch of cayenne, S&P. Stuff this into the fish cavity, which you lay into (for me) buttered parchment paper, laid in a pan. (Instructions are to put onto grid in pre-heated oven as you would for baked potato, but I have no idea what that means!) As if was, it was a challenge to look up temp of Regulo 4, which seems to be 350 degrees)
          Bake for 25-30 minutes, and sure enough, it's done! yes, still kinda fishy tasting but cooked and the accoutrements help, that and the potatoes, etc I made.
          A notch on my belt if not necessarily a repeater!

          4 Replies
          1. re: NYchowcook

            Congratulations!! I cooked my first mackeral this year too during the Fish Without a Doubt month. Loved it.

            I take that grid instruction to mean a flat rack (much like a cake cooling rack) which is placed in a (low rimmed) roasting pan.

            1. re: NYchowcook

              What she meant about "put onto grid" seems straightforward enough: lay the package directly onto the oven rack as you would a potato you're baking, instead of using a pan. The idea is to get direct heat on all sides of the fish immediately, and avoiding any moisture condensing under the paper on the bottom...which is why one bakes potatoes directly on the rack. At least everyone I know does. I might be a little dubious about a packet of fish, though, especially one that would likely drool some grease...

              1. re: Will Owen

                <" I might be a little dubious about a packet of fish, though, especially one that would likely drool some grease...">

                I suppose the packet *could* be placed directly on the oven racks - but with a sheet pan on the rack below to collect the "drool." Actually, I prefer juices, Will Owen...
                just sayin'. LOL

                1. re: Will Owen

                  My oven has a rack with a pan underneath to catch any drippings.

              2. Boullinada (F, p. 69-70)

                It was a rainy day today, making a walk to the market an unattractive prospect, and I had some mahi mahi defrosted, so I looked through Elizabeth David to see what I might make with that and ingredients in the house and settled on boullinada. I didn't really think this recipe for a Catalan version of bouillabaise was a promising dish, because it called for water instead of stock, and I only had one kind of appropriate fish on hand, but once it got going I took the lid off the pot to release this wonderful aroma, and I ate two bowls of it. Stock probably would have muddied the flavor of the fish.

                I made half the recipe, sauteeing about half a cup of chopped parsley and two cloves of garlic, sliced, in bacon fat. E. David recommends using a heavy wide saute pan, but for half the recipe, I decided to use a heavy evasee pot. The recipe calls for a red pepper, sliced, to be sauteed along with the parsley and garlic, but I had some roasted peppers on hand, so I added about half a sliced red pepper after the garlic was cooked. The roasted pepper flavor was a nice touch.

                On top of that I layered thinly sliced potatoes and thick chunks of fish alternately, a pound each in total, and added water up to the top of the potatoes, but not covering them. The recipe didn't call for salt or pepper, but I thought it would need them, so I added some sel gris and rose pepper.

                The instructions were next to bring the stew quickly to a rapid boil, covered, add a tablespoon of olive oil, which I think acts mainly as a surfactant to keep the pot from boiling over, and then continue boiling rapidly for 15-20 minutes with the cover on.

                At 15 minutes, I turned the flame down to low, ladled out a bowl for a quick photograph, and kept it warm until wife and toddler were home (about 20 minutes after it was done--I think about that much extra resting time isn't a bad thing), and even toddler liked it. I'd definitely make it again, maybe with two or three kinds of fish and a garnish of mussels, as E. David suggests.

                5 Replies
                1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                  Looks good. This recipe didn't jump out at me, but after your report, it sounds like something I need to try.

                  1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                    I have that recipe as a Maybe.... I love that your Toddler liked it. Bravo to your Chowpup.

                    1. re: Gio

                      I was surprised at how quick and simple it was. A few changes, and this could easily turn into a 30-minute chowder. The technique of layering the fish with thin slices of potatoes and doing the whole thing on a full boil makes it work very quickly, so the potatoes fall apart, but the fish doesn't.

                      1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                        DAG: The photo looks very tempting and pro. Reminds me of photos in a wonderful Brit. cookbook by Rose Prince. And that's a compliment.

                  2. Sole au Vert [S]

                    This quite possibly is the fastest, easiest recipe I've ever made! The most difficult thing I had to do was to go out into the garden and gather the combination of herbs required to complete the "Vert" part of the title.

                    Fresh, wild caught Pacific sole was on sale at a local market this week so yesterday DH brought home 1 1/2 pounds of fillets. These were seasoned with S & P and dusted lightly with flour. Because they were rather delicate I rolled each ot them up then sauteed them in hot butter. They are turned over and cooked for another 2 - 3 minutes. A handful of fresh, chopped herbs are tossed into the skillet... and presto.... Done! The herbs I used were tarragon, chives and parsley. Sorrel is the main herb but it hasn't appeared in my garden yet and was not at the market so I substituted yellow oregano. It does not have the savory quality of sorrel but is distinctly different than regular oregano. The fish had such a lovely fresh flavor and the herbs enhanced that beautifully. I served it with baked polenta and a spicy salad of diced toatoes, diced white onion and thinly sliced cucumber with a red wine vinaigrette whose main component was cumin.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Gio

                      That sounds like the perfect summer meal, Gio. Delicious.

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        Well, it certainly will be on the rotation for hot summer meals. The baked polenta took 3 minutes to mix together and 60 minutes to bake in the oven. I suppose any other veggie dish can be substituted so the oven dosen't have to be turned on.

                    2. Baked Bream [S]

                      Another recipe that I made before June, hence no photos as I was giving my husband a respite. The whole bream is marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, bay leaf, parsley, thyme, salt & pepper. No quantities given, and I can't read my notes about how much I used or how much the fish weighed. She says to cook uncovered in a fairly hot oven, so I think I used about 400 degrees. The skin is supposed to get "golden and crackly" but mine did not. I also don't remember how long I cooked it for.

                      The sauce is shallots reduced in white wine, with french mustard, 2 oz butter, two pounded egg yolks, salt, pepper and parsley.

                      This was another simple and lovely dish - I actually just pushed the egg yolks through a fine sieve that I use when I make deviled eggs.

                      1. Ragout of Shell Fish [M]

                        I used half the amount of seafood called (so, 6 cooked prawns - I used jumbo shrimp, 3 scallops and 1 quart mussels) for, but made the whole amount of sauce. I'm glad that I did, and I even added a bit of water when I thought it was getting too thick. I poached the prawns, then sliced them vertically through the shell, and shelled all but two, which are placed on top of the dish. The shelled ones are cut into chunks - I cut them halves in three. Sliced the large scallops in half, cleaned the mussels very well.

                        The sauce starts with sliced onion sauteed in butter, with 1 T concentrated tomato puree (I used tomato paste), chopped garlic, salt & pepper, chopped herbs (I used thyme and tarragon), and a little sugar. After simmering for 5 minutes, add flour, stir until thick and then add white wine and cook for fifteen minutes or so. You then add in the cut up shrimp and sliced scallops, and the mussels. Cook on high heat, until mussels have opened - I removed the mussels as they opened, and then actually removed all the seafood, as I had cooked about 4 oz of linguine to toss with the sauce (and a little lemon juice and chopped parsley). I then put the linguine and sauce in a serving bowl, added the seafood, tried to toss around a bit, and then placed the shrimp in the shells on top.

                        This was such a flavourful dish, and if I made the full amount, I would double the sauce. I had some really stunning seafood, which I'm sure helped. She says as a first course it serves 4 - 6. (The linguini was not in the recipe.)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MMRuth

                          oh now that looks delicious mmruth. I wasn't able to get any of the books that were listed, instead I figured I'd take what I could. Italian Food, and Harvest of the Cold Months, just to get a feel for her style. Actually she reads pretty straight forward and I love her seafood recipes. You all have done a wonderful job of reporting your efforts that I can easily follow any of these recipes. Oh the plans I have for my frozen seafood!

                          I love mussels and shrimp/prawns and scallops and what I want to know though is this, did you dunk some wonderful bread into that sauce?

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            No bread - but that's why I added some pasta to the dish, to capture some sauce. I'm sure bread would be wonderful too!

                        2. Scallops Fried in Batter [F]

                          I've been getting some beautiful sea scallops and made these last week. The batter is:

                          1/4 lb flour, sieved
                          3 T olive oil
                          pinch of salt
                          3/4 tumbler water (I can't remember how much I used - maybe started w/ 4oz and kept adding until I liked the consistency.

                          Mix these ingredients together, and let the batter rest for two hours. I did a little less. Then stir in one beaten egg white. I missed this bit and put in the egg white with everything else, but, while next time I'll do it correctly, the batter was still v. good.

                          The scallops are halved, and then seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Then dip in the batter, and fry in "very hot but not boiling" fat. I used a combination of olive oil and peanut oil. You are supposed to make a sauce with the roe, but I didn't have any roe. So, I doctored some mayonnaise with a little tomato paste, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. We both really enjoyed these - the batter was thick but light, if that makes sense. Oh - drain fried scallops on paper towels.

                          1. Lobster Romesco (M)

                            This is really only a recipe for the sauce, which David says is to be served with hot or cold boiled lobster. I had it with cold poached shrimp.

                            Roast 2 tomatoes, a small red chile, and "several garlic cloves, up to a full head." I used 2 1/2 fat Roma tomatoes, a Fresno pepper, and around 8 large garlic cloves, roasted at 400F up near the top element for around 20 minutes. Peel all and seed the chile. She instructs us to pound them in a mortar; I used the mini bowl of the food processor to puree. Then add salt and a level dessertspoon (2 tsp.) of paprika (I used Spanish smoked), 4 or 5 T. olive oil (I used 4), and a little vinegar (I used sherry vinegar, and didn't measure, but probably used around 1 1/2 T., going by taste until it was balanced). David says to strain the sauce through a sieve, but I did not.

                            The sauce was not very thick, but then it lacks the bread and ground nuts in most recipes. It had just a bit of heat from the chile and a nice background smokiness from the paprika (which I figured would be appropriate, given it's a Spanish recipe).

                            I put some in a bowl and dunked the shrimp. I imagine it would be good with many seafoods, or even poured on fish fillets and baked. It was also very nice with my pommes de terre à l'Echirlète (reported in vegetables thread) and on zucchini-cottage cheese pancakes.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              Good to see your report for this sauce, Caitlin. I think I'll try it with cod fillets I expect to make for tonight's dinner. It doesn't sound like it would enhance lobster, though.