Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pacific rockfish "brandade" with truffles

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Pacific rockfish "brandade" with truffles (photo: Lynne Hemer, Cook & Be Merry)

Truth: The idea for this cold fish mousse came to me in a dream. It was a few short weeks before this year's Trufflepalooza, my annual multi-course truffle-laden extravaganza, and the menu was still in flux. I knew I'd be making radish and truffle butter sandwiches, truffled filet mignon toasts, truffled puff pastry straws, and truffled egg salad. I was toying with the idea of truffled pork shumai. I knew I wanted to do something with seafood but hadn't yet found the right approach.

And then one morning I woke up with this recipe fully formed in my mind. A clean, mild, white fish, which I'd steam, then puree with cooked potato, creme fraiche and truffles. A play on brandade, the hearty French mash of salt cod and potato. I'd pipe the cold mousse into hollowed-out sections of Persian cucumber. Light, cool, aromatic, perfect. Who knew that was in my brain? I have never loved my subconscious more.

But what kind of fish to use? My local fishmonger suggested cod, whitefish and snapper, also known as Pacific rockfish. I bought a bit of each and made three purees. My family taste-tested but we couldn't agree. I liked the flavor of the cod but was bothered by its fibrous texture. The rest of the family was split between the whitefish and snapper.

The next morning I went to KCRW to tape a segment about Trufflepalooza and truffle recipes for Evan Kleiman's public radio show "Good Food." I packed up samples of my three fish mousses (mice?) and took them to the studio. I ran Evan and her producer Harriet Ells through another blind taste test. They liked the cod, even with its texture issues. "But really," said Evan, "they're all good. I'd just use whichever one is cheapest."

Evan is smart. I listen to her. The Pacific rockfish was local, cheap and delicious. When you make this, look for a mild, white-fleshed fish that won't break the bank. The truffles are the star of the show anyway.

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Pacific rockfish "brandade" with truffles
Serve this light truffled fish mousse in hollowed-out cucumber cups for an elegant hors d'oeuvre.
  • 1 pound Pacific rockfish filets (or another mild, white fish)
  • 1 large Idaho baking potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 6 ounces creme fraiche
  • 2 tsp white or black truffle oil
  • 1/2 tsp truffle salt
  • 2 Tbsp grated fresh truffle (optional)
  • 5 or 6 Persian cucumbers, washed, ends trimmed
  • chives (for decoration)
Place a steamer basket inside a large pot and line it with a piece of parchment paper. Add an inch or two of water to the pot and bring it to a boil. Put the fish on one side of the steamer and the potato chunks on the other side. Cover the pot and steam for 7 minutes or until the fish is done. Remove the fish and continue to steam the potatoes until they're soft, another 10-15 minutes.Place the fish and creme fraiche into the bowl of your food processor and puree until smooth. Add the cooked potato, truffle oil, truffle salt and fresh truffle and process in short bursts until the mixture is smooth. Potatoes get gluey in the food processor when they're pureed too aggressively, so err on the side of caution. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Put the mixture in the refrigerator and chill thoroughly.While the fish mixture is cooling, cut the cucumbers into 1-inch lengths, then use a melon baller to scoop out some of the flesh, taking care not to pierce the bottom. You want to end up with pieces that will stand up on their own and have neat little depressions waiting to be filled.Transfer the cold fish mousse to a pastry bag or zip-top plastic bag and pipe it into the cucumber cups. Decorate with chives. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: approximately 30 pieces


Rhonda said...

You are killing me with all your truffleness. I haven't had a taste of a fresh one since I was in France, which was much too long ago.

Monet said...

I'm praying for some culinary dreams tonight because this is truly inspired! Thank you for sharing this creative dish! You and your words make me smile. I hope you are having a happy end to your week. I'm looking forward to a weekend of reading...back in school already!

SweetSavoryPlanet said...

Anything with truffles is alright with me! Such a treat.

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