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.
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.
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)
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
Cut the fillets into strips of about 2-3 cm (1 inch) wide and the eel into 5 cm (2 inch) segments.
Preheat the oven to 65C/150F and put the plates for serving in the oven.
It can’t be a surprise that this is best with the same aligoté that was used to make the dish.