Wish I was a Kellogg's Cornflake
Floatin' in my bowl takin' movies,
Relaxin' awhile, livin' in style,
Talkin' to a raisin who 'casion'ly plays L.A.,
Casually glancing at his toupee.
Wish I was an English muffin
'Bout to make the most out of a toaster.
I'd ease myself down,
Comin' up brown.
I prefer boysenberry
More than any ordinary jam.
I'm a "Citizens for Boysenberry Jam" fan.
Ah, South California...
from Punky's Dilemma, Simon and Garfunkel
I remember hearing this song years ago, its words set the scene, I imagine myself floating in Hockney colors without a worry in the world. A couple of weeks ago we took a trip to South California (Northern San Diego County to be exact)and the scene surpassed our imaginations: Fish tacos, beer and the beach, our winter was warmed. For the trip back, Bonne Femme bought me a Sunset Magazine. At first I snickered thinking of the stacks of old Sunset Publications on the book sale racks at the library. But wait, this mag is kinda good, a hip Better Homes and Gardens, or a Real Simple with a sense of place (and purpose). On the plane I got intrigued by a recipe for Wine Braised Seafood Choucroute. It hits some of my favorite flavor points, Sauerkraut, smoked fish and sausage. It's party time.
A word about Choucroute.
Chou is French for cabbage. Choucroute is French salted cabbage or as my German pals say, Sauerkraut. Choucroute a L'Alsacienne is the comfort food of the Alsace region in which sausages, smoked meats, maybe confits de goose or duck are braised cabbage with a wine broth. But will this work with seafood?
For the seafood sausage I skip the "gourmet" markets the magazine suggests and turn to Ruhlman and Polcyn's Charcuterie, for a recipe. The Shrimp, Lobster and Leek sausage seems like a good start. As I am reading it I start ruminating about how seafood and sausage really don't go together: The ingredients are expensive and highly perishable, and stuffing a fish mixture into a hog or sheep casing really knocks my Feng Shui out of whack. I look around for other seafood "sausage" recipes, the French must have done something like it. Well they did, only they don't call it sausage. The secret term that links the Charcuterie recipe to culinary history is mousseline forcemeat. Escoffier defines the mousseline forcemeat as preparation of pounded meat whipped together with egg whites and heavy cream. Form this mixture using a spoon, pastry bag, or just rolling it, and you get quenelles. Thems fish balls, yo.
I ended up doing two batches because the recipe only made four 4-1/2oz sausages. The first batch I stuffed into hog casings the second batch I poached in plastic. I used crab instead of lobster.
I saved the shrimp shells and sauteed them with a mirepoix of onion, fennel and parsnip. I added a package of bonito flakes for a little extra zip. The addition of wine turns the stock into what pros call a fumet, and Hey Presto, you got yourself a braising liquid for your choucroute.
Smoking Fish in the comfort of your home.
I laughed when I first saw these smoker bags at Walt's, I mean what kind of cockamaime tomfoolery is somebody to to foist on me? But when I discovered that these bags were made in Finland, I loaded up. Seriously what the Finns DON'T know about smoking, aint worth knowing. I went to this farmer's market over there where these dudes were selling hams that they had smoked in their Sauna. I gotta get me a sauna.
Anyway I loaded the about pound and a half of salmon into the bag folded it shut, and popped it into the oven. I could smell the smoke working, but it wasn't a nuisance. It didn't even come close to setting off a smoke alarm.
20 minutes later I had hot smoked fish. As you can see it's not very pretty and a little undercooked, but that's okay it will finish cooking when we do the braise.
I followed the Sunset recipe and braised the cabbage in the fumet along with some garlic and a sachet containing juniper, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns. After an hour I added the smoked salmon and the quenelles. I browned the quenelles before adding them. Heat and serve. Everything was delicious and worth the fuss. Here's the recipe I used for the seafood "sausage."
Shrimp and Crab Sausage (Quenelles)
1lb/450 g large (16-20 ct) Shrimp peeled deveined.
8 g (1 teaspoon) salt
2 g ground white pepper
1 large egg white
100-150 ml heavy cream
2 g dry tarragon
50 g leeks, chopped fine, blanched
55 g crab (whatever you can afford)
Use a food processor puree shrimp with salt pepper and egg white. With machine running add heavy cream, keep an eye on the mixture you don't want it to get too loose. And make sure everything stays very cold. Transfer to a bowl and fold in remaining ingredients. Chill. Stuff into casings or roll in plastic then gently poach until done.
I adapted this recipe from Charcuterie with input from Escoffier and Larousse.