A French style recipe for dourade/black/sea bream..
Sea Bream is an excellent fish to cook, underated in the UK but slowly gaining in popularity due, I am sure in no small part to its cost in comparisson to sea bass. Dourade, black bream, sea bream, call it what you will the French in particular love it and it’s a staple on any self respecting brasserie menu. Now I am writing about a French style preperation but this fish is equally brilliant given Asian flavours and cooking methods, I have steamed them whole, braised the fillets in curry and soups, wok fried them and served them as ceviche and they have always responded wonderfully well.
This is a simple but classic way of cooking bream, poached over sliced potatoes with fennel, olives, confit lemon and a saffron infused fish stock. It’s a simplified bouillabaise really in as much as the potatoes are cooked in the broth which is flavoured with all of the ingredients of a classic Marseille bouillabaise.
The stock is the key to success here, the more flavour you extract the better the end product. You can use fish stock cubes but some fish scraps and/or skins/bones would be so much better. Don’t measure anything, go by taste. Take a pan, heat some olive oil and saute a chopped onion with a clove or two of garlic. Add some sliced fennel, a little chilli, a couple of bay leaves, some fennel seeds and when all has softened a little tomato puree. Throw in a chopped fresh tomato and then add some washed fresh fish ends (not oily fish i.e mackerel, salmon) along with a little orange peel. After five or six minutes add a splash of anise if you’ve got some, if not use white wine and cook until reduced. Cover the fish and vegetables with water.
Saffron is a key ingredient here, not cheap but a little goes a long way. Soak a few strands in warm water about an hour before you start cooking to allow the flavours to infuse. Add this to the stock, be careful because it can easily overpower the other ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer for twenty minutes and then pass through a fine sieve. Now I cook sliced potatoes and sliced fennel in this stock for extra flavour, as the potatoes and fennel cooks the stock reduces and helps make the finished sauce so all I need to do is whisk in a few lumps of cold butter at the end to thicken it.
Take a pan and arrange the par cooked potato and fennel slices in the middle, place your fish on top and half fill with the stock, cover the fish with tin foil or butter paper and bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer until the fish is just cooked, remove from the pan and check that the potatoes are fully cooked. Remove from the pan and reduce the stock by half, add the cold butter until the stock has thickened. Add a few olives and warm through.
Place the potatoes and fennel in a bowl, top with the fish and pour the sauce around.