Sea bream is a lean flavorful fish, also known by its French name daurade or dorade (orata in Italian). It is often served in restaurants in the south of France, so here I paired it with ratatouille from that same region. Ratatouille is a vegetable dish using eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and sometimes also bell peppers that is usually simmered until it is very soft. In this case, I prepared a crunchy version by cooking the vegetables only briefly and cutting them in such a way that each piece has a bit of skin. I always like to extract all the flavor from ingredients. In this case I used the head and bones of the sea bream to make fish stock, which I then used to cook the rice as well as to add depth of flavor to the ratatouille. To top it all off, I cooked the sea bream sous-vide first so it would be tender and juicy, and then crisped up the skin over high heat. This is one of those dishes that takes a while to prepare, but it is worth it as it was delicious and not to mention very nutritious with all those vegetables, brown rice, and lean fish. Here is what I did…
For 2 servings
1 sea bream, filleted, head and bones reserved, about 500 grams (1.1 lb)
1 eggplant (aubergine), 1 zucchini (courgette), and 1 red bell pepper (capsicum)
80 ml (1/3 cup) sieved tomatoes (tomato puree/passata, but not tomato paste)
1 unwaxed lemon
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves + some additional sprigs of fresh thyme
1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 1 onion, all chopped
3 black pepper corns
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
extra virgin olive oil
flour for dusting
salt and freshly ground black pepper
130 grams (2/3 cup) brown rice
If your fish monger hasn’t already done so, start by pin boning the fish fillets. Feel with your finger along the center of the fillet where the spine of the fish used to be. Extract any bones you encounter using your fingers or a pair of tweezers.
After that, season the fillets with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with a bit of grated lemon zest and rub with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.
Vacuum seal the fish fillets and allow to marinate in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.
Remove the eyes and gills from the fish head. Soak the fish head and bones in cold water to remove any traces of blood. Then put the head and bones in a saucepan and cover with cold water, about 1 litre (4 cups).
Bring the water to a boil. Remove any scum that will rise to the surface with a slotted spoon.
Once you’ve removed the scum, add a chopped carrot, a chopped celery stalk, a chopped onion, some fresh thyme sprigs, 3 black peppercorns, and a bay leaf.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp with a spoon.
Add the pulp to the stock. Cut the zucchini into pieces of about 1 cm (1/2 inch) such that each piece has a bit of skin.
Do the same with an eggplant by first cutting it into slices and into 8 wedges…
…and then removing the center part of each wedge. Add those to the stock as well.
Clean the bell pepper and cut it into pieces of a similar size as the zucchini and eggplant.
Cook the eggplant pieces in a frying pan with olive oil over high heat…
…until they are golden.
Transfer them to some kitchen paper to drain, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Do the same with the bell pepper…
…and the zucchini.
After half an hour of simmering, strain the fish stock using a fine sieve.
For the rice, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan. When the oil is hot, add a minced shallot and cook until soft and fragrant.
Now add a minced clove of garlic, and stir briefly. Make sure the garlic doesn’t brown.
Add 130 grams (2/3 cup) of brown rice.
Stir over medium heat until the rice is covered with the oil.
Add 500 ml (2 cups) of the fish stock to the rice.
Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes the rice should be cooked and the moisture should be absorbed. You may have to adjust the amount of stock and the cooking time based on package instructions. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the rice with salt.
Meanwhile, reduce the remaining fish stock…
…until it is thick.
To finish the ratatouille, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Tilt the pan and cook a whole garlic clove in the oil until it is golden but now brown, then discard the garlic.
Add 80 ml (1/3 cup) of sieved tomatoes to the garlic-flavored oil.
Stir for a minute over medium heat.
Add the reduced fish stock.
Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the reserved eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper to the tomato sauce. Add a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves as well.
Stir over low heat until the vegetables are coated with the tomato sauce and have been warmed through.
Cook the fish sous-vide for 10 minutes at 50C/122F. Then take it out of the bag and pat dry with paper towels.
Dust the skin side with flour.
Prepare plates with rice and vegetables so you will be able to serve the fish immediately once you have crisped up the skin. Arrange the rice…
…and the vegetables on preheated plates.
Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the fish fillets with the skin side down and cook over high heat until the skin is crispy, about 1 minute.
Serve the fish with the rice and vegetables and a slice of lemon. If you like, you can sprinkle with thyme leaves for color (which I forgot).
It’s always great when I try recipes from blogs that they follow that turn out very well, like these cranberry hazelnut cookies by Mimi. In fact, this flashback reminds me I should bake them again myself!