Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

John Dory

John Dory.

Also known as St Pierre or Peter's Fish, this is a brilliant white fish to cook and attain a crispy, golden-brown crust. 

Do fish have feelings? No. However, their genetic make-up can drawl many parallels and well... exemplification, comparisons, metaphors, similes, allegories, and I may even venture to say parables, to the human species.

John Dory skin : saute :: Human skin : truth in love

Bust out the highlighters, ladies and gentlemen... some SAT life-skills are about to go down.

Not quite, but a quick insight into one analogy.

When cooking fish skin, the quest is to attain a crispy, golden-brown crunch without overcooking the flesh. To begin, I will often use walnut or almond oil (I prefer the nutty-subtle flavor, but EVOO/butter are also commonly used). Allow the fat to heat on a medium-high heat. If the fish did not have skin, then cook on a high-heat. However, since the skin is present, we begin on a medium-heat. This will allow the skin to begin to cook enough to crisp, while the flesh does not overcook. Be sure to dry the fish skin with a paper towel, then season well with salt and pepper (I will add a touch of cayenne pepper too). Place the skin on the medium-high saute pan (non-stick if possible) and do not touch.

Metaphor incision. When placing the fish on the hot saute pan, it is imperative that you do not disturb the cooking process. Is it an intense, rigorous "baptism-by-fire?" You better believe it. However, if you attempt to move the fillet before it is ready to be flipped, you will end up causing more harm (and may even break the delicate fillet). All too often, the same can be said of our lives... sometimes we must venture into a trial/tribulation in order to be refined and end up stronger. It is during these times that we learn who we can trust, who truly has our backs, and who will be by our sides when the chips fall.

After a few minutes, the oils actually release the fish from the bottom of the pan, ensuring that it is time to be flipped in a safe manner. Since the John Dory fillets are thin, the majority of the cooking is accomplished on the skin-side. Pre-cooked, the skin of the John Dory is unpleasant; however, after the saute process, the "ugly-ducking" skin transforms into a gorgeous, stunning design and brilliant texture-contrast to the buttery skin. Using a fish-spatula, carefully flip the fish, then "kiss" the second side. By "kiss," I mean to flip the fish on the saute pan, while still on the heat. Then, you may turn the heat off, but keep the fish on the saute pan... the residual heat from the pan will continue to cook the fish gently, as opposed to too quickly. If cooked too quickly, the tendency to overcook is magnified. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice before serving (essential not to forget the citrus step!)

Rather than slathering the John Dory with tarter sauce, focus on simple accouterments to compliment the seafood: cilantro pesto, cilantro-infused Greek yogurt and roasted artichoke hearts/rutabaga.

Cilantro Pesto:
2 large garlic cloves - peel and mince fine
2 cups fresh cilantro - remove from stem
1/4 cup EVOO
2 Tbsp almond oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the garlic and cilantro in a food processor (fit with a metal blade) or Vitamix. With the processor running, slowly add the oils, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth. Not too difficult, eh?

Cilantro-infused Greek Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup 0% Fat Greek Yogurt (plain)
1 cup fresh cilantro - remove from stem
2 tsp garlic - mince fine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of smokey paprika and cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

Stir together all ingredients then chill (covered) for at least 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to marry and develop together. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Roasted Artichoke Hearts and Rutabaga:
Peel the rutabaga and cut into small strips (the smaller the cut, the faster the cook). Combine the pieces of rutabaga and artichoke hearts in a medium bowl - toss with almond oil, herbs de Provence, Cajun seasoning, lemon juice, salt and pepper... the roast in a 400 degree oven until tender.

On a white plate, carefully drizzle the cilantro pesto and cilantro-infused Greek yogurt sauce on the plate. In the middle of the plate, add a few pieces of the roasted vegetables. Carefully place the seared John Dory (skin-side up) atop the veggie pile, then select a few more vegetables to place atop the brilliant fillet. Finish with a thin slice of lemon and sprigs of cilantro.

“To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist.” - Robert Schumann


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