Since moving to Paris, we have dived head-first into the wonders of french cuisine. With markets bursting with beautiful, fresh, foods everyday, it’s easy to be sucked in. One of the great wonders we discovered is the french (or european, really) approach to seafood. They believe, wholeheartedly, in seasonality. You can find certain foods year-round in some of the supermarkets, but you’ll pay more and the quality won’t be the same.
Our first experience, aside from the discovery that our weekly salmon here is much better than at home, involved scallops, or Saint-Jacques. In Texas, you can find scallops, but they have NOTHING on the ones plucked from the ocean off the coast of Brittany, France in the winter. They are large, sweet, juicy, still have their silky orange roe sacks and are utterly amazing. They require nothing more than a little beurre, salt and pepper. By far, they are one of our favorites when they are in season. Sadly, Texas has access to only frozen scallops due to its geographical location and I can never settle for those again.
The second thing we discovered was mussels, or moules. When visiting Bruges, we tried mussels for the first time and loved them, so after doing a little research, we attempted to make them on our own. Mussels are another winter specialty. In the later months of the year, you can find them in large sacks, big enough for two people, for less than 15 euros. Moules Marinières, or mussels cooked in a garlic-butter white wine sauce) is our favorite. Besides our overzealous scrubbing of their shells that took well over an hour, (we can be a little anal), it was incredibly easy to make and very satisfying with a chunk of crusty bread.
All of these small successes, which also included langoustines and giant shrimps, has lead us to something that is very uncommon in the states: cooking, and eating, a fish whole. We often see beautiful fish at the Poissonerie, but never had the guts to try. Honestly, it seemed a little intimidating. How do you eat around all those bones? What about the skin? HOW DO YOU EVEN DO IT! * HAS BREAKDOWN*
Worry not, my friends, for here is our little fish tale, so you can embrace whole-fishy-goodness and save some serious money!
It started with an evening watching videos from Bart’s Fishtales on YouTube. He is this mellow Dutch guy who cooks, well, all things fish. Some of is stuff is a little too out there for us, but we happened to stumble upon a recipe where he cooked a whole fish in the oven. It looked amazing and possibly simple enough for us to pull off. Later that week, I remembered that French Guy Cooking, also on YouTube, had a crossover episode with Bart. French Guy, who is also amazingly charming by the way, usually takes more difficult french classics and makes them more manageable for those of us not Michelin-star trained. I located the video, showed it to Geep, and we agreed we wanted to give it a shot. This one was pan cooked (Called Truite Meunière), however, so we had to find a large enough skillet. NOTE: the whole recipe is in that video, this isn’t a food blog, dammit.
First, we chose our prey. You can make this with many kinds of fish, but we decided to go with the trout. We picked up these two beautiful specimens from our fishmonger for under 7 euros! Beau, non?
We bought them already gutted and cleaned, so we really had no work to do. Pro Tip: Rinse the fish with cold water and then soak them in heavily salted water for about ten minutes. It’s supposed to make the meat stay more moist or something. It turned out good, so trust the tip.
Next, we patted our fish dry and seasoned them inside and out with sea salt and pepper.
Then, we had to flour our fish. We used a large glass brownie pan to hold our sifted flour. We salted and peppered the flour, as well. We dipped in the fish, making sure they were good and covered, before doing the strangest part, we went outside to beat our fish. We held them high over Paris, and beat them until the excess flour was on our balcony. Fresh fish beats. The header picture for this post shows the fish beats. We beat them, and it was glorious.
It will probably be one of those things we remember when we are really old, “Hey, remember when we beat flour off of some trout in Paris?” says 90 year-old Purrito to 95 year-old Geep. (This will be followed by “What?”, “What?”. How romantic.)
After the fish beats were completed, we threw them, lovingly, into a large pan with un-clarified butter like French Guy’s method, and set them at a medium heat.
Then, after a few minutes, a careful flip and…..
After letting them cook for a few more minutes, confirming they were cooked well ( 135 degrees fahrenheit is about perfect), we pulled them from the pan. Add a little fresh butter back in, a handful of chopped parsley, and some fresh lemon juice, and voila! A great pour over sauce.
The skin was crispy, the fish was delicate, and everything from our salad with homemade vinaigrette and our simple potatoes was delicious. Oh, and you can’t forget the wine!
Eating around the bones was really easy. If you pulled the skin back, you see this natural line separating the top filet and bottom fillet. We used a spoon to separate along that line and then pushed the bottom fillet down and then the top filet up. Almost no bones.
Why did eating whole fish seam so scary? Why don’t more Americans eat fish this way? Who knows, but this is now one of our favorites. Plus, it’s an excuse to beat fish which pleases our inner weirdos.