Monday, October 15, 2007

%^$(*# Paupiette...again.

Well, so, okay, we're still not over and done with that Paupiette of Sea Bass recipe that Top Chef had on a month ago. It just looked so yummy, that I had to come back to it.

Several problems remain -- the same ones, in fact, that I had the last time. No sea bass, so we used halibut and we still can't slice the %&*^)! potatoes thinly enough. As observant readers might note from the photo, the potato is, in point of fact, not wrapped around the fish, but instead, brutally mashed, whipped, and otherwise made the object of frustration, and served alongside the fish.

It's a tool problem. I thought that at last we would be able to nail this one--fish substitution aside -- because we finally have a mandoline, but no-o-o-o-o. The mandoline is --baldly stated-- cheap and ineffective.

Another lesson in you-get-what-you-pay-for.

Our brandless mandoline was sold at a ridiculously low price at Sur La Table-- so low that I bought three and gave them away like Christmas cards. It'll slice. Sorta. It likes zucchini, in fact, although heck, I can make thin slices of zucchini with my penknife. But if you want long rectangles of russet potato you can read a newspaper through -- well, let's just say it's worth it to spring for the pricey stuff.

Lesson learned. We did the rest of the recipe, the leeks sweated to soft leek-iness in butter, and we pan fried the fish.

But, today, I'm here to talk about the sauce.

They didn't actually have to make the sauce on the Top Chef Quickfire -- it was already provided for them, because there's no way they could have made it in 20 minutes. It took us a couple of hours, but WELL worth the trouble. It actually made up for the trauma of our potato failure.

On Boulud's site the measurements are pretty specific, but since I've been doing a lot of reading about Italian nonna cooking, I've gotten quite cavalier about amounts. We used twice as many shallots, mushrooms, stock and thyme, but left off the fish bones and it didn't seem to hurt things at all.

"Yes, a Whole Bottle" Red Wine Sauce

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, for cooking
Leftover fish bones from filleting
1/2 cup peeled and chopped shallots
1/2 cup sliced white mushrooms, caps only
1/2 sprig fresh thyme
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 bottle (750 ml) of Barolo wine (we used a Cline Syrah)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced chives

Heat the oil in a pot over high heat. Add the reserved sea bass bones, the shallots, mushrooms, and thyme sprig and roast for 8 to 10 minutes while stirring often. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and cook until completely reduced. Add the wine-- all of it-- bring to a boil, and reduce by half. Remove and discard the fish bones with a mesh skimmer. We also strained the whole thing at this point.

Reduce the sauce to 2 tablespoons. Seriously, two tablespoons. You can do it. It just takes a while. Add the heavy cream, stir, and bring to a boil over low heat. Whip in the butter, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Strain the sauce with a fine mesh strainer or chinois and keep it warm on the side. (If the sauce is too thick add a little water to thin it.)

Put it on just about anything -- it's fantastic.

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