Burgundian Fish Stew (Pôchouse Bourguignonne)

Burgundy (Bourgogne) is a region in France that is famous for its wine and its food. Three years ago we went there for a few days to discover the wine region and purchased some nice wines. Most Burgundian wines are at their best between 5 and 10 years from the harvest, and since the wines we purchased were mostly from 2007 and 2008 it is time to start drinking them. And so it’s a good occasion to organize some Burgundian evenings to share the wines with our friends and enjoy them with some good Burgundian food.

White burgundy is often paired with lobster, but since Burgundy is far from the sea there are no traditional Burgundian dishes with lobster. To cook a nice dish to be paired with Burgundian whites, I had to come up with something using freshwater fish. Pôchouse is a traditional freshwater fish stew that is prepared with eel, bass, pike, and tench. The fish is poached in aligoté (white wine from Burgundy) and served with a cream sauce.

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A disadvantage of freshwater fish is that many types of lots of bones, which makes them unpleasant to eat. For this reason, perch, pike, and tench are not available commercially in the Netherlands. As an alternative I used zander, also known as pike-perch (“sandre” in French, “snoekbaars” in Dutch), a freshwater cousin of sea bass that is easy to fillet.

If you like poached fish, you will love this dish. For a traditional dish it is surprisingly elegant and easy to make. Finding the fish may be the hardest part in making this dish, especially if you let your fish monger do the filleting for you. As with all fish dishes, it is important not to overcook the fish. And as with all dishes that use wine, make sure to use a good wine because it is the determining factor in the quality of the dish. Here’s what I did.

Ingredients

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For 4-6 servings

1.5 kilograms (3.3 lbs) freshwater fish: zander or a mixture of perch, pike, and tench

500 grams (1.1 lbs) eel, cleaned

1 bottle (750 ml) aligoté (plus 1 more to drink with it)

1 onion

1 carrot

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 sprig fresh parsley

2 Tbsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley

some black peppercorns

60 grams (4 Tbsp) butter

10 grams (1 Tbsp) flour

6 slices French bread

100 grams (2/5 cup) crème fraîche

salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves garlic

1 clove

Preparation

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Fillet the fish, or let the fishmonger do this for you. Make sure you ask him to give you the heads and bones for the stock. Remove the eyes and the gills from the fish heads.

Cut the fillets into strips of about 2-3 cm (1 inch) wide and the eel into 5 cm (2 inch) segments.

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Soak the fish heads and bones in cold water for 15 minutes to remove any blood and smells.

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Drain the soaking water and put the fish heads and bones in a pot. Cover with 1 litre (1.1 quarts) clean water.

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Bring to a boil and remove the scum that will rise to the surface with a slotted spoon.

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Prepare the other stock ingredients. Chop the onion and the carrot. Assemble 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig parsley, 1 clove, and some black peppercorns.

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Add the assembled stock ingredients to the pot. Lower the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

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After 30 minutes, filter the stock with a colander first to remove the large bits.

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Then filter with a fine sieve.

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Simmer the stock until it has been reduced to about 125 ml (1/2 cup).

Preheat the oven to 65C/150F and put the plates for serving in the oven.

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Meanwhile, put the crushed garlic cloves in a pot with a sprig of thyme, a bay leaf, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

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Add the entire bottle of aligoté.

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Bring to a boil.

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Lower the heat to very low and add the fish. Regulate the heat such that the poaching liquid is about 60C/140F. Poach the fish for 10 minutes.

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The fish is done when it’s opaque but not yet dry or very flaky.

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Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and arrange on the warm plates.

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Keep the plates with the fish warm in the warm oven (65C/150F).

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Meanwhile, bring the poaching liquid to a boil and reduce over high heat.

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Fry the slices of french bed in 20 grams of the butter (1 1/2 Tbsp) to make croutons.

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Combine the flour with the remaining 40 grams (2 1/2 Tbsp) butter.

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Mix the flour and butter to make beurre manié, a classic French thickening agent for sauces.

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Add the beurre manié to the concentrated fish stock, and whisk to mix.

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Add the concentrated poaching liquid to the concentrated fish stock, filtering out the garlic, bay leaf, and thyme.

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Add the crème fraîche.

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Whisk to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep very hot.

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Remove the fish from the oven and season lightly with salt. Remove any juices that may have run out of the fish with paper towels. Pour the hot sauce around the fish.

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Serve immediately with croutons, sprinkled with parsley. It is best when the fish and the sauce are eaten together.

Wine pairing

It can’t be a surprise that this is best with the same aligoté that was used to make the dish.

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14 thoughts on “Burgundian Fish Stew (Pôchouse Bourguignonne)

  1. this is great Stefan, love how nothing goes to waste, my mom was born in Bordeaux, I should give this a try for mother’s day 🙂 Finding the fish is going to be difficult though, I might need to find a good substitution. Liking the pics too btw!

    Like

  2. I love the way you keep the fish warm, loke a pro fine dining restaurant do…
    never mix the fluor and the butter prior to cooking before, we used solved it into water first….
    always learn a new technique from you stefan….

    Like

  3. This looks delicious, Stefan, especially with the sauce that you’ve prepared. You’re tight, though, about freshwater fish and their bones. Eating some is an act of faith in one’s fishmonger.

    Like

  4. Ate this a couple of times on the Saone, at Verdun-sur-Saone and Pontaillier, really enjoyable and your version looks great on the plate. Will give it a go soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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