In my last post I wrote about the futility of making puff pastry from scratch and how, when we were training at Leiths, we had to go through the painful process about a gazillion times. In the interest of balance then, I should make reference to something else we learnt at Leiths, something a bit more useful and therefore much used since leaving the teaching kitchens of West London.
I was thumbing through my course notes a while back and I came across a recipe for Herb Crusted Whiting With Mustard Veloute, which I think was attributed to Gordon Ramsay. The herb crust of the title is a blend of tarragon, parsley, butter, breadcrumbs and lemon zest, rolled flat between cling film or baking parchment, then cut to size for cooking on top of a piece of fish. It is a great thing to make, not only because it is a quick and easy way to liven up any piece of oven roasted white fish, but also because it can be frozen and portioned as and when required. Perfect whether you are cooking for one or a family of four.
I recently started to explore its potential a bit further and found that the herb crust works fantastically on top of simple fishcakes. Just cut out a circle with a pastry cutter and place on top of the fish cake, and then into the oven to bake for a few minutes.
Then, needing to create a fish dish that could be transported and reheated, I decided to roll the crust into plaice fillets and then baked them in a cheesy white sauce. The crust became a lovely filling, and as it bubbled in the heat of the oven, rivers of lovely herb butter flowed into the creamy white sauce that enveloped the fish.
I top the soft fish fillets with some cheesy soufflé croutons which I once saw Mary Berry make. They provide a lovely, salty, contrast in texture to the fish, and they are so moreish. I defy anyone not to eat a good handful of them before they get anywhere near the fish. Alternatively a nice wholegrain mustard mash would be a suitable accompaniment.
I've added some vermouth to the cheese sauce which cuts through the richness nicely, but feel free to leave out if you don't have any in the drinks cabinet!
This isn't a particularly slimming dish, but it's high on the comfort food scale, perfect for when the autumn nights begin to draw in.
HERB STUFFED PLAICE FILLETS WITH VERMOUTH MORNAY AND SOUFFLE CROUTONS
4 large fillets of plaice (or sole), skinned and cut in half lengthways
For the stuffing (adapted from a recipe by Gordon Ramsay)
85g unsalted butter, softened
85g fresh white breadcrumbs
20g parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
15g tarragon, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
For the sauce:
190ml whole milk, warmed
pinch white pepper
20ml double cream
60g grated emmental
For the soufflé croutons (adapted from a recipe by Mary Berry)
30g full-fat cream cheese
75g mature cheddar grated
1 large egg white
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 x 2.5cm slices from a white tin loaf, 2-5 days old, crusts removed
Preheat the oven to 180°C
To make the stuffing, place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine.
Remove the stuffing from the mixer and place on a sheet of baking parchment. Place another sheet of baking parchment on top and roll out the stuffing to about the thickness of a 20p piece. Cut out pieces of stuffing the same size as each fish fillet. Chill in the freezer for a few minutes if too soft.
Place the correct sized stuffing on top of each fillet and roll up the fish tightly
You can freeze any leftover stuffing, rolled out flat.
Melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux and cook over low heat for a minute. Add the warmed milk a ladle at a time stirring well to combine. Continue to add more liquid and beat well to remove any lumps until all the milk has been used. Add the vermouth.
Boil for 1 minute then add the grated cheese and seasoning. Allow to cool slightly.
Place the fish snuggly in a baking dish and cover with the sauce. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes
To make the croutons :
Melt the cream cheese, butter and cheddar in a pan over a low heat until completely melted Whisk the egg whites until stiff, and carefully fold into the cheese mixture. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Cut each slice of bread into 20 cubes. Dip each cube in the soufflé mixture until completely coated, shaking off the excess, and create a layer on top of the fish and sauce.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden.
Place 2 plaice rolls on the plate and cover with sauce. Scatter on some croutons and serve with green vegetables.