Chestnut caper

Baked sea bass from Bastia with broad beans and pancetta ragoût

I’ve popped over to the island of Corsica. This is a place I need to visit for real. Fish obviously features greatly but I’m more interested in the game and charcuterie specialities. I remember the Hairy Bikers going nuts for their rose veal. Chef recommended the wild boar and the donkey sausage. The schoolboy still in me couldn’t subdue his giggle. Seriously though, I wonder if donkey is like goat or horse? It might be tough and I hope mighty fine when slow cooked. Chesnuts groves are everywhere and they feature heavily in the Corsican cuisine. Awesome. Love chestnuts.

But it’s fish again today.

Loup de Mer à la Basquaise avec Ragoût de Fèves au Lard. A baked sea bass from Bastia served with chestnut polenta, and a broad bean and pancetta ragoût.

Fish filleted to a fanfare. Record time. Scales everywhere, again. Bones and head disgorged in ice. Fumet made. The fish had not been covered correctly and 1 side had had dried out. Man, the scales were a million times harder to remove. Always cover fish with a damp cloth.

Now, lots of low and slow.

The sauce is something special and makes this dish. Onion and garlic sweated in olive oil without taking on colour. A lot of tomato paste added and cooked out. Capers, thyme and bay added with white wine to deglaze. Reduce by half. Fish fumet added, reduced by half, low and slow to emulsify the oil. Blip, blip, blip. The fish fillets were carefully fried in olive oil, skin side down to take on some colour but not cook through. They were relocated into the sauce, flesh side down and cooked in the oven.

Chef’s tip: If a fish is cooked over a high heat, use a cocktail stick to test for doneness. You’re looking for initial resistance—like popping a balloon. If there’s no resistance it’s overcooked. Using a low heat, there will be no resistance but the fish is unlikely to overcook anyway (unless it’s forgotten). 

Onions were cooked super slow in gallons of olive oil. Lardons were added later. And lastly fresh, blanched broad bean. Finished à l’étuvée.

The “polenta” was made by whisking chestnut flour and water on the stove until it formed a ball in my whisk. Then I had to extract it somehow. Bang, bang on the side of the pan. Bang, bang. Using a maryse, I continued to work the dough in the pan until it had cooked through. That was a work out. It was wrapped in parchment, moulded into a brick and placed in the fridge to cool. Later diamonds would be cut from the dough and fried in Beurre Noisette until crispy with some colour.

This is a jolly nice fish dish.

In demo chef prepared Salade de Poulpe. Octopus poached in Court-Bouillion and dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and parsley. Not my thing. More because of the dressing than the cephalopod. There are 3 ways to tenderise this rubber beastie: Freeze it. Beat it. And—wait for it—soak it in kiwi fruit juice. Yip, specifically the juice from a kiwi fruit. 

Octopus salad