Zander with Apple Syrup and Bacon

Zander is a freshwater fish with a very elegant flavor that is caught locally in the Netherlands. It is also called pikeperch or pike perch. The combination with tart apple syrup and bacon has been made famous by Jonnie Boer, as it is one of the signature dishes of the Librije. Together with the creamy sauce, made from the head and bones of the zander, and crisp celery and potato it is a delicious dish. My version is not a copy of Jonnie’s dish, although it was certainly strongly influenced by it. The fish can be cooked either sous vide or in the oven. Both have their drawbacks: with the oven you have the risk over overcooking, with sous vide the risk of the fish falling apart is higher.

Jonnie refers to the bacon as “attic bacon”, because the bacon is cured in the attic. Because I cure my homemade pancetta in the garage, I jokingly call this Zander with Garage Pancetta when I serve this.

If you can’t find zander, you can also use cod. This will need to be cooked at 44C/111F instead of 48C/118F. Make sure to ask your fishmonger for cod with skin. Cod falls apart even more easily than zander, so it may be difficult to serve it neatly.

Ingredients

Serves 4 as an appetizer or ‘in between’ dish

4 pieces of zander loin with skin, about 60 grams (2 oz) each

4 slices of pancetta

1 celery stalk

1 shallot

125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine

125 ml (1/2 cup) whipping cream

1 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot

1 small waxy potato

1 Tbsp tart apple syrup

1 tsp Japanese soy sauce

salt and freshly ground white pepper

1 Tbsp chopped chives

1 Tbsp butter

olive oil or clarified butter

oil for deep frying

For the zander stock (for the sauce)

head and bones of the zander

carrot, celery, and onion

Instructions

Season the zander with salt and vacuum seal if you are going to cook the fish sous vide. Otherwise, just cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the salted fish for at least an hour before cooking.

Remove and discard the eyes and gills from the head of the zander. Allow the head and bones to soak in cold water for a bit to get rid of the blood.

Discard the soaking water, rinse the head and bones, place them in a stockpot, and barely cover with clean water.

Bring to a boil, and skim away any scum that will rise to the surface.

Then add the chopped carrot, celery, and onion. (If you do that before skimming, you would take the vegetables out of the pot along with the scum.) Simmer the stock for 30 minutes.

Sift the stock and pour it into a wide pan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until reduced to about 1/4 litre (1 cup).

Heat 1 Tbsp butter in a saucepan, add a minced shallot, and stir over medium heat until the shallot is soft.

Deglaze with 125 ml dry white wine…

…and reduce by half.

Then add the reduced zander stock…

…and simmer over medium heat until reduced by half.

Sift the sauce…

…pressing down on the shallots with a spoon to get all of the liquid out. Up until this point you can prepare the sauce beforehand and refrigerate it until you are ready to finish the dish.

Peel the potato and cut into very small dice. Deep fry the diced potato for about 1 minute.

Allow the diced potato to drain on a paper towel.

Bake the diced potato in the oven at 120C/250F until crispy, about 1 hour.

If cooking sous vide, cook the zander sous vide for 15 minutes at 48C/118F.

In the meantime, finish the sauce. Pour the prepared sauce into a saucepan.

Mix the whipping cream with a teaspoon of cornstarch or arrowroot and stir well until there are no more lumps.

Add the cream to the sauce.

Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring, and allow to simmer until the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground white pepper.

Peel the top of the celery and slice it. Fry the celery briefly in some olive oil and drain on kitchen paper.

Allow the slices of pancetta to become soft, translucent, and warm in a dry pan over low heat. (At Librije they put the bacon on a hot cover for this.)

Season the crispy potato with salt.

If cooking sous vide, take the zander out of the bag and fry it briefly on the skin side only in olive oil or clarified butter over high heat. Handle the fish carefully, because it will fall apart easily.

To cook the fish in the oven, first fry the raw fish on the skin side only over high heat in clarified butter or olive oil, and then finish cooking it for 10 minutes in the oven (skin side up!) at 180C/350F.

Mix a tablespoon of tart apple syrup with a teaspoon of soy sauce.

  • Pour a circle of sauce in the center of each preheated (!) plate.
  • Place some celery near the edge of the sauce.
  • Place the fish with the skin side up in the center.
  • Brush the skin with the mixture of apple syrup and soy sauce.
  • Place the pancetta on top of the fish.
  • Sprinkle with crispy potato.
  • Sprinkle with chopped chives.
  • Serve.

Wine pairing

This is great with a creamy high-level Burgundy like a Meursault, but other oaked Chardonnay will work as well.

Flashback

Quahogs are a type of large clams. In New England and especially Rhode Island they are prepared stuffed and then called “stuffies”.

14 thoughts on “Zander with Apple Syrup and Bacon

  1. Looks most appetizing but will need some ‘reworking’ this side of the world . . . may try ! Have never had apple syrup in the house – homework needed ! Fascinated that one can taste such a very small amount of soy . . . again, have to test 🙂 !

    Like

  2. Hi Stefan,
    sounds ok for Christmas Eve diner.
    As I’m in Spain now, I can’t find appelstroop…
    I have found some fig marmelade and thought to add some balsamico, to get a little acid touch as in the appelstroop.
    What’s your idea to use?

    I want to thank you for all your energy, efforts and great culinary ideas and inspiration this year!
    I wish you and your favorite tester a nice Christmas and a prosperous new year!

    Best regards,

    Frans

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Frans,
      I’d be very careful with the balsamic as it can be quite sharp. But you can of course always taste before you use it. I do think that the combination of fig marmelade and balsamic could work to get fruity, sweet, tart, and caramel tones.
      You have a great Christmas and 2022, too!
      Regards, Stefan

      Like

      1. Good morning Stefan,

        It worked out well.
        I think I got a similar effect concerning taste. However I didn’t get the sticky syrup effect.
        Great recipe and combination again. The sauce was some work though, but worth te effort!
        Thanks,

        Regards,
        Frans

        Liked by 1 person

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