Pastry. Is there anything it does not make taste better? Don’t answer that question - it was rhetorical.
'En croute' means to cook in pastry. A puff pastry recipe is to follow on the blog in future weeks. The basic principle is to encase a big slab of butter within a sheet of pastry and then fold and roll, each time creating a new layer separated by a thin layer of butter. By the end of the process there are just over a thousand wafer thin layers. When cooked these puff up, giving the pastry an airy ethereal lightness. And buttery. Did I mention buttery?
Why would we cook fish in pastry? Because the pastry seals in the moisture as the fish cooks. And also because we then get to carve the surface of the pastry to give it scales and a little tail. This will remind you of playing with clay at art lessons in high school, only you can eat the result, and your teacher is not a lesbian who smelt like cigarettes and brandy.
I made a caper and parsley butter to go with this. The acidity of the capers complements the fish and cuts through the richness of the pastry. In hindsight, the final presentation was a little sparse:
I was originally going to braise some sliced fennel to accompany, which would have added some colour and texture. Unfortunately, I got a little overly mellow on some white wine and forgot to chuck it on. Que sera sera.
There was also an incident with part of the seal coming open in the oven as it cooked, requiring some emergency surgery with some spare pastry. This is why the bottom of my fish looks a little misshapen, like Joe Pesci.
- 1 medium sized snapper, filleted (alternatively, use any soft fleshed fish)
- 2 sheets of puff pastry
- 1 egg
- 75g butter
- 2 Tsp olive oil
- 40g capers, drained
- bunch of parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1 Tsp white wine vinegar
- salt and pepper
- First make the caper butter. Throw the parsley, caper and butter into a blender and whizz. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar in, and blend until smooth. Season.
- Lay out a sheet of puff pastry (take out of the freezer about 20 min before using so its soft enough to work with.
- Lay a fillet skin sized down and cover with a thick layer of caper butter. Spread evenly with spatula, leaving a gap at the edges.
- Whisk the egg in a bowl to make an egg wash.
- Place the other fillet on top, skin sized up. Paint around the fillet with the egg wash so the next layer will stick.
- Place the next sheet of pastry on top. Carefully seal around the sides, tight up against the fish. Squeeze the air out as you go. Fold the bottom over, and crimp down tight. Cut the excess pastry off the sides, leaving a fish shape. Use the remaining dough to shape a tail.
- Now scrape some fin and scale shapes on the dough with a sharp knife. Also an eye, and a smiley face. Paint with egg wash. Pierce the pastry in a few spots so the steam can escape and the pastry won’t split.
- Bake for 20 min at 200C until golden brown. Slice and serve with a dab of caper butter, and salad leaves or braised fennel.
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