People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.
03/24/2010 Sole with leeks, morels and cream (Sole à la crème, aux poireaux et aux morilles) Clay pot
Note before you start: You will need a fresh, whole sole for this dish, or very fresh sole filets plus the carcass (head and skeleton) of another white-fleshed, non-oily fish)
For 4 servings:
1 whole fresh sole weighing about 2 lbs., or 4 large sole filets plus the carcass of another white-fleshed fish 1 stalk celery, sliced 1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1 onion coarsely diced 2 leeks, white and pale green parts thinly sliced and reserved, greens coarsely sliced for the stock 1 bay leaf 5 pepper corns 1 T. olive oil 3 T. unsalted butter sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 2/3 c. dry white wine 2 c. fresh morels or 1 c. dried, soaked for several hours in 2 c. warm water, soaking water reserved 1 c. crème fraîche Few drops fresh lemon juice 3 T. chopped chervil or parsley
In a medium large dutch oven, warm the olive oil and add the fish carcass, making sure to have removed the gills from the head. Saute gently until the scraps of flesh turn white. Add the leek greens, celery, onion, carrot, bay leaf and pepper corns and water to cover. Bring to a boil,skim if necessary, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes. Strain the fumet into a medium saucepan and discard the solids.
Put the fumet, along with the strained morel soaking liquid if applicable, on a medium flame and bring to a boil. Reduce to just slightly over one cup, skimming frequently. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a clay poelon if possible, or in a heavy skillet, melt half the butter, add the sliced leeks and a good pinch of salt. Stir well, cover, and 'sweat,' stirring frequently, over medium low heat until soft but not colored. Distribute the leeks in the bottom of a gratin dish just large enough to accommodate the sole filets. Place the filets on top, salt and pepper lightly, and carefully pour the wine around the filets. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until barely cooked (still slightly pink)--about 7 minutes depending on the thickness of your filets. Pour off all liquid accumulated around the filets through a strainer into the reducing fumet. Reserve the fish in its dish.
If using fresh morels, cut them in half lengthwise and swish them briefly in a sinkful of cold water. Drain, then spread in layers with paper towels. Press on them lightly to extract the water. If using soaked dried morels, cut them in half lengthwise, swish them in a bowl of cold water to remove any remaining grit, and dry as above.
Melt the remaining butter in a clay poelon or heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute the morels with a pinch of salt until just barely starting to brown, then distribute them over the surface of the precooked fish.
Add the cream to the reduced fumet. Bring to a boil, watching carefully as the sauce will rise and threaten to boil over. (This is not the moment to go check your email.) Whisk vigorously to prevent this. Continue boiling over medium heat until the sauce "settles" and no longer rises as it boils. Dip a small stainless spoon into the sauce; it should lightly coat the spoon. Taste for body and continue cooking if it seems too thin. Adjust the seasoning and add a few drops of lemon juice to brighten. Scrape the sauce gently over the fish and morels, being careful to coat all their surfaces.
Preheat the oven to 400. Bake the dish until the sauce is bubbling briskly (about 5 minutes). Sprinkle with the chervil or minced parsley and serve immediately, making sure each diner gets some of the lurking leeks.
Note: This is a luxurious spring dish that is definitely suitable for company and is best accompanied by a spring green vegetable, such as garden fresh peas or asparagus. Follow up with fresh fruit--such as the first spring strawberries--for dessert.