Bleu d’Auvergne is amongst our favourite cheeses. It’s creamy, semi-hard, moist, powerful, pungent and not too salty. It was created around 1850 in France when a farmer combined cow milk curd with the mould of rye bread. He also noticed that the cheese benefits from increased aeration using needles (similar to the process used when making Stilton cheese). Nowadays Bleu d’Auvergne is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), just like the other excellent cheeses from that region (for example Saint-Nectaire and Cantal). For some reason Bleu d’Auvergne combines extremely well with cod. We tried other combinations, experimented with adding butter, cream or crème fraîche but we always return to this one. It’s a tribute to both the fish and the cheese.
The combination may be very specific; wine pairing is not too difficult. In general a fairly present, white wine will be great choice. Could be a Verdejo from Spain, a mildly oaked Chardonnay or a glass of your favourite white wine. No reason to open a bottle of Chablis; the flavours are too bold for a really elegant wine.
What You Need
Skinless Cod Loin
Bleu d’Auvergne (preferable mature)
What You Do
Heat a heavy cast iron skillet through and through, add olive oil, dry the cod with kitchen paper and fry on the firm side (where the skin used to be) until it’s nice and golden. Flip the fish, reduce the heat and start adding chunks of cheese. It will melt, but make sure you still have these blue bits in there. Baste the fish with the melting cheese. Check the cuisson of the cod (the fish must be opaque and flaky) and serve on a warm plate.
Lentils are healthy, easy to work with, not expensive, nutritious and high in fiber, protein and iron. Lentils have been around for a long time, so you would expect lentils to be popular, but for some reason they are not. Lentils can be used to prepare soups, salads, dahl, burgers, curry, biscuits (sablés) and so much more. The three basic types are Green or Brown lentils, Red lentils and Black or Beluga lentils. Red lentils are often dehusked and then split, making them perfect for cooking soup.
In most cases we prefer Du Puy lentil from Sabarot because of their great taste and the fact that they hold their beautiful shape, even when cooked. Sabarot also produces lentil flour; ideal for biscuits, pancakes and waffles.
Beware of fake Du Puy lentils! They have names like ‘Le Puy lentils’ or ‘Dupuis lentils’. All nasty marketing. The real Du Puy lentils come with an Appellation d’Origine Controlee (Protected Designation of Origin).
We very much enjoyed a glass of Spanish Verdejo. In our case a bottle of Monteabellón Rueda 2019. In general wines made from the Verdejo grape combine very well with fish. The wine comes with the right acidity, giving freshness to the wine. It has floral aromas typical for the Verdejo grape. You may also recognize the aromas of banana and exotic fruit.
What You Need
Green, Du Puy or Beluga Lentils
Mild Fish Stock
What You Do
Chop the shallot (seize lentil) and glaze gently in olive oil. In the mean time check the lentils for small pebbles; wash them. Once the shallot is glazed, add the lentils and the crushed cilantro seeds. Heat for a few minutes, as you would do with risotto rice. Add the mild fish stock and leave to simmer on low heat for approximately 20 minutes, depending on the size (and your preference of course). In parallel fry the cod in butter in a non-stick pan. Just before the lentils are ready, add half of the finely cut cilantro to the lentils and mix. Timing is all. The lentils should be cooked, all liquid evaporated and absorbed and the cod just done. Meaning the cod is opaque and the flakes can be separated easily. And overcooked meaning you can see those nasty small white bits of egg white and the fish becomes dry. Serve the cod on top of the lentils and sprinkle some cilantro over the lentils and cod. Maybe add a touch of white pepper.
PS In case you think cilantro tastes like soap, feel free to replace the fresh cilantro with parsley. Cilantro seeds do not trigger the soap-like taste.
Isn’t it interesting how our preferences for aromas and flavours change over time, influenced of course by producers, restaurants and chefs. In general we prefer dry white wine, we think a ragout made of pied de moutons, morels, Comté, oranges, bread crumbs and samphire is really intriguing and why not serve tea with your main dish? Years ago we probably would have loved poached cod with Hollandaise Sauce and a small carrot sautéed in butter accompanied by a glass of Muscadet. But not today. No poached fish and no soft buttery carrots. Fashion is about change; not improvement.
Let’s revisit the fish with Hollandaise Sauce and give it a ‘modern’ twist: we very gently fry the fish and serve it with a delightful Kimizu.
We mentioned Kimizu earlier when we wrote about White Asparagus. In this case we will make the sauce lighter by adding extra water. It’s wonderful to see and feel the consistency of the Kimizu in combination with the soft, opaque fish.
We enjoyed our fish with a glass of Chardonnay, produced by Antonin Rodet. The wine is made from 100% chardonnay grapes. Its aromas made us think of peach. It has clear floral notes. The taste is rich, with flavours of ripe fruit, subtle oak and minerality. In general we would suggest a chardonnay with a little oak and a long finish.
What You Need
For the Fish
For the Kimizu
2 Egg Yolks
1,5 tablespoon of Rice Vinegar
2 teaspoons of Mirin
2 tablespoons of Water
What You Do
Warm a non-stick frying pan. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil and butter and then place the pan over medium-high heat. Gently fry until nearly done. Best would be to buy tail end with the skin on, allowing you to fry the fish on its skin. Turn it for a few seconds, allowing for a light golden colour. The fish is ready when the flesh has become opaque. In parallel whisk the two egg yolks, add the rice vinegar, the mirin and the water. Whisk well. Now set your microwave to 90 seconds and 30% power. Give the mixture 10 seconds and whisk, Repeat this with 5 seconds of warmth followed by whisking. You will notice the change in the consistency. Depending on the size of the eggs, the temperature of the ingredients and the quality of your microwave this may take something like 60 seconds. Serve the fish with white pepper and a generous helping of kimizu. And if it makes you smile, please add some carrots, sautéed in butter!
Well known of course as one of the most popular fish used for Fish and Chips. And when you mention Haddock, Cod is never far away. According to many recipes and foodies the two are very similar in terms of taste and way to prepare. That’s where we disagree. We think Haddock has a much more delicate taste compared to Cod. Plus its structure is more compact. When frying Cod it’s not difficult to see and feel what the cuison is. The compact structure of Haddock implies that you have to test the cuison in a different way. Frying haddock requires your constant attention.
Shiitake is more and more widely available, which is great! The nutty taste with the firm structure makes them ideal for this dish. Powerful but not overwhelming. The classic White Mushroom (or the chestnut coloured variation) will not do the trick; too soft and not sufficiently intense. The Shiitake brings umami to the dish.
The white wine sauce is actually enriched with Classic Dry Noilly Prat, our favourite vermouth. Why favourite? Because Noilly Prat comes with a touch of bitterness, with umami, bringing the sauce and the Shiitake together. The vermouth is made with a number of botanicals, including chamomile. The white wine will bring acidity, but the dish also requires a hint of sweetness. The vermouth will enhance the natural sweetness of the Haddock. We use fish stock to create the sauce, obviously. Spend some money on buying a jar of excellent stock (or make your own).
So on your plate you have an intriguing combination of fish and mushrooms, with all five tastes represented. Nice isn’t it?
Our choice was a bottle of Pinot Grigio made by MezzaCorona. This is a dry and crispy wine with a beautiful deep yellow colour. It’s an elegant wine with just the right acidity to relate to both the fish and the sauce. The producer mentions hints of chamomile.
What You Need
200 grams of Haddock (without the skin)
100 gram of Shiitake
Dry White wine
What You Do
Start by cutting the shallot. Fry gently in butter for a few minutes. Clean the Shiitake with kitchen paper and slice. Check the fish for bits you don’t want to eat. Add wine and Noilly Prat to the shallots and let the alcohol evaporate. Then add parsley and some fish stock. Leave for a few minutes and taste. Maybe add a bit more vermouth or fish stock. Be careful with the white wine. In parallel fry the fish in butter and olive oil. Both sides should be beautiful golden brown. Gently fry the shiitake in olive oil. When not yet completely ready (check the flexibility, feel how warm the fish is) transfer the fish to a sheet of aluminium foil. Don’t close it; you only want to keep it warm. Pass the sauce through a sieve and be ready to blender the sauce. Add all juices from the two pans and from the aluminium wrapping. Blend the liquid. You could add a small chunk of ice-cold butter to thicken the sauce. We didn’t. Serve the fish on top of the sauce and add the shiitake. Perhaps a touch of white pepper.