Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ocean Perch Provencal

     Healthy French Provence Region Food!  
     There are many different definitions and variations of Provencal Sauce.  Many French chefs that I apprenticed with described Sauce Provencal as a preparation style.  Modern textbook definitions state that Sauce Provencal is a tomato sauce made in the style of Provence.
     It is the chef's choice as to whether the sauce is made like a refined tomato puree for fine dining or whether the sauce is made rustic peasant style with a coarse texture.  I worked with a Corsican chef who was a culinary arts instructor at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris.  This chef preferred to make the peasant style version of Sauce Provencal, because it looks good on a plate and the rustic theme is true to the nature of the sauce.  
     Researching old Haute Cuisine descriptions of Sauce Provencal shows that the sauce actually is made with butter, garlic and a few select herbs.  There is no tomato and no lavender in the oldest traditional Sauce Provencal recipes.

     Today's Provencal Sauce recipe is a rustic tomato version that offers interesting complex flavors.  Brandy is used in this Provencal Sauce recipe instead of wine.  It is best to save the bottle of good French country wine (AOC vin de pays) for serving with today's healthy Ocean Perch entrée!

     Country Style Sauce Provencal:
     This recipe yields 2 generous portions.  (1 1/4 cups) 
     Like many Sauce Provence recipes, this sauce is highly seasoned.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 chopped garlic cloves.
     Add 1 thin sliced small shallot.
     Gently sauté till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped leek.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped mixed red and green bell pepper.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 3:  Add 1 cup of peeled seeded coarsely chopped plum tomato.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Herbs De Provence.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil leaves.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of whitefish stock.  (fumet)
     Add 3 ounces of brandy.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce till a little more than half of the excess liquid evaporates.  (The sauce will be finished with the fish in the next recipe!)
     Remove the pot from the heat and set it aside.
     Ocean Perch Provencal:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée or 2 petite lunch portions.  
     Step 1:  Select 2 ocean perch filets that weigh 4 ounces apiece.  (Leave the skin on the filets.)
     Lightly season the filets with sea salt and white pepper.
     Dredge the filets in flour.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Place the floured perch filets in the pan with the skin side facing up.
     Sauté the perch on both sides, till they are almost fully cooked.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add the reserved thin Country Style Provencal Sauce.
     Gently warm the sauce with the fish, till the fish is fully cooked.  (Do not stir or flip the fish or the Ocean Perch will break apart!)
     Step 4:  Use a spatula to set the Perch Filets on a plate.
     Keep the Perch plate warm on a stove top.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil to the provencal sauce in the pan.
     Stir the sauce.
     Simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates.  (The sauce should look like a coarse tomato sauce with very little liquid left to weep out.)
     Step 6:  Spoon the sauce over the perch filets.
     Serve with a vegetable and potato of your choice.
     *The entree in the photographs was served with buttered bliss potato wedges and a sautéed small portobello mushroom.
     Garnish with a small basil sprig.
     This Country Style Sauce Provencal variation is abundant with herbs and the brandy flavor adds a nice old fashioned touch!

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