Stir-Fried Crappie and Sauces

You don’t need a wok to stir-fry fish. A heavy skillet that holds the heat will work just fine. Now let’s wok up some fish flesh.

 

1 pound crappie fillets

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 cups celery cut diagonally

1 green pepper cut into 1/4-inch strips

1/4 cup green onions chopped

1/2 cup fresh mushrooms sliced

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons instant chicken bouillon*

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water

 

Heat oil in heavy skillet or wok. Cut crappie fillets into 1 1/2-inch strips. Sauté the fish fillet strips and vegetables for 3 minutes. Add cornstarch, mixed with seasonings, soy sauce and stock or water. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes until thickened and hot. Serve over hot cooked rice.

*If you use chicken bouillon dissolve it in 1 1/2 cups water. If you use chicken stock omit the bouillon. Serves 4.

 

Poached Crappie

 

6 crappie fillets

1 medium leek, shredded white and light green parts

1 bay leaf

2 strips of lemon peel

2 black peppercorns

Pinch of sea salt

2 cups water

Olive oil (optional)

 

Add the leeks, bay leaf, lemon peel, peppercorns and salt to a small pot. Pour in 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add in the fish. Add more water if the fish is not covered by at least 2/3. Cover, bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Leave to steam on top of the stove until the fish is opaque. Carefully remove the fish with a slotted spoon and, if desired, drizzle with a little olive oil. Serve with rice and steamed vegetables. Serves 3-6.

 

 

Five Mother Sauces

 

Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world. It can be a liquid, cream or semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. They are not usually consumed by themselves. They add flavor, moisture and visual appeal to other dishes. Sauce is a French word taken from Latin meaning “salted”.

Sauces may be used for savory dishes or desserts. They can be prepared and served cold, like mayonnaise, prepared cold but served lukewarm like pesto or can be cooked like béchamel and served warm or again cooked and served cold like apple sauce. Some sauces are industrial inventions like Worcestershire sauce, HP (Houses of Parliament) Sauce or bought ready-made like soy sauce or ketchup and others still are freshly prepared by the cook. Sauces for salad are called salad dressings. A cook who specializes in making sauces is called a saucier.

The five modern “mother sauces” (set is early 1900s) or grandes sauces are espagnole, velouté, hollandaise, sauce tomate and béchamel – all good with fish. From these “mothers” a large variety (many hundreds or thousands) of “daughter” sauces can be composed.

I only have room for two this month and the other recipes will come later.

 

 

Béchamel

5 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups milk

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside until ready to use.

 

Espagnole, Basic Brown Sauce

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

4 fresh parsley stems

8 whole black peppercorns

1/2 cup onions diced

1/4 cup carrots diced

1/4 cup celery diced

1 ounce clarified butter

1 ounce all-purpose flour

3 cups brown stock (i.e. beef stock)

2 tablespoon tomato purée

 

Fold the bay leaf, thyme, parsley stems and peppercorns in a square of cheese cloth and tie the corners with a piece of kitchen twine. Leave the string long enough so that you can tie it to the handle of your pot to make it easier to retrieve it. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat until it becomes frothy. Add the mirepoix (a mixture of sautéed chopped vegetables) and sauté for a few minutes until lightly browned. Don’t let it burn! With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the mirepoix a little bit at a time, until it is fully incorporated and forms a thick paste (this is your roux). Lower the heat and cook the roux for another five minutes or so, until it just starts to take on a very light brown color. Again – don’t let it burn! Using a wire whisk, slowly add the stock and tomato purée to the roux, whisking vigorously to make sure it’s free of lumps. Bring to a boil, lower heat, add the sachet and simmer for about 50 minutes or until the total volume has reduced by about one-third, stirring frequently to make sure the sauce doesn’t scorch at the bottom of the pan. Use a ladle to skim off any impurities that rise to the surface. Remove the sauce from the heat and retrieve the sachet. For an extra smooth consistency, carefully pour the sauce through a wire mesh strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth. Serve hot. If you won’t be serving the sauce right away, keep it covered and warm until you’re ready to use it.

Note: You can use store-bought beef stock for making your espagnole, but as always, make sure to use a low-sodium or, if at all possible unsalted, stock. Anytime you’re reducing a liquid with salt in it, you’ll be concentrating the saltiness that you might not want, especially if you plan to use the resulting sauce to make yet another sauce, which itself might be reduced. Better to season your sauce at the very end of cooking.