Fish en Croûte
Settling into life in my parents’ house means getting used to a flat-screen television, living in a house that’s about 5 times the size of ours, and having free reign in a chef’s kitchen. Stella, for her part, hasn’t even mustered the willpower to make a coo before someone scoops her up. Francesco finds it equally as challenging, what with his own private study and did I mention there’s a flat-screen television? Yeah, well, there’s also someone (my dad) willing to watch Justified and Person of Interest with him. So, though some may cringe at the thought of spending two straight months with family, we’re doing just fine.
One highlight of coming home is that someone else does, occasionally, make dinner. Both of my parents are talented cooks in different ways, but both relish not having to cook for others every night. Needless to say, their daily salad-and-cheese-plate routine changes when we roll into town. Requests are the norm – duck breasts with a brandy cream sauce? venison loin in a juniper rub? – and inspire many a cognac-capped night. Most of my requests are things I could make, if pressed. But I personally think a brandy cream sauce tastes better when you don’t have to reduce the cream yourself.
One of the simplest dishes I ask my mother make when we come home is fish en croûte: a few fillets of hake, halibut or salmon topped with sauteed mushrooms and spinach then baked in a buttery puff pastry shell. It’s served in thick slices and presents beautifully for guests or grown children who no longer refuse things like mushrooms, spinach and fish.
Fish en croûte is one of those things that I love to eat but never actually make. Of course I could make it myself. But somehow it’s better when my mom does it. Kind of like brandy cream sauce. And laundry.
FISH EN CROÛTE
Depending on the size of your fish, one of these puppies should feed about 4. It never hurts to make two in one go!
1 large or 2 smaller equal size fillets of salmon, cod, hake or similar fish, completely de-boned and de-skinned (about 1/2 lb (250 g) fish per person)
1 large bag fresh baby spinach
about 2 cups mushrooms (baby portobello, white, oyster, etc.)
2 sheets good-quality all-butter puff pastry, defrosted
egg for egg wash and sesame seeds, optional
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Wilt the spinach in a large pot, then, when it’s cool enough to touch, squeeze as much liquid out as possible; set aside. Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms in butter over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Season both spinach and mushrooms with a little salt and pepper.
Arrange the fillets of fish skin-side down so that it is of even thickness throughout, in the middle of one of the sheets of puff pastry. Top with spinach and mushrooms. (You can also place the spinach and mushrooms on the pastry first, then arrange the fish on top.) Place the other sheet of puff pastry on top, and seal the two layers together, tucking the overhanging pastry under. If you want, you can make an egg wash by beating an egg in a small bowl and brushing it over the top of the puff pastry, then sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.
Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes: the puff pastry should be fully cooked and brown on top. If you got a super thick piece of fish, cook for 5 extra minutes just to be safe. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!