Having been away from my kitchen for about a month the craving of home cooked meals is tremendous. I’ve been fantasizing about making all these new recipes and the second I get home, my mind goes blank. I can’t even put together a decent sandwich… ok I take that back, mayo and toast is a pretty awesome one. We could talk cubans here too but that’s probably a longer conversation or you can check out my take on it. Anyways, I will have to put off my cooking for a few more days until I figure out what to make.
A few more days passed. I have a jar of squid ink in my fridge and a renewed disposition to wash dishes and sharpen knives. Finding a beautiful piece of sturgeon at the local grocery store seldom happens and must be seized. I have never worked with sturgeon. I’ve only consumed the eggs and the fish itself at nice restaurant once. I bought 3 fillets. I figured I would get a crash course on sturgeon pan frying at least.
The first thing I learned. The skin is extremely hard to crisp up without burning it. So yes, I burned the damn thing, besides, nobody has ever learned a thing by being perfect. Quickly adjusted turned off the heat let the fish cook in the covered pan by its own steam for a minute or so.
Second. This fish need to be cooked to maybe a little above rare but not as far as medium. I’d say stay around 125F-135F. It doesn’t do well raw. It’s too chewy. At least the fillets I got at the market maybe the belly would be a different story. Maybe I’ll find out one day when I’m rich. In my photos my fish went a bit over medium rare. Next time I will just get it done right in the sous vide apparatus. A little trial and error cements knowledge better than looking at a temperature table.
Third. When you sear this fish, you could almost think of it as steak. The color, the redness of the juices, the texture to the touch. It’s amazing. This is one robust fish so I wouldn’t be afraid to pair it with flavourful things.
Fourth. The texture. Once I got it right and got the fish to medium rare, that’s when the magic started happening. The skin I sadly couldn’t get to cook properly and was too rubbery (I still ate it because I love the taste of fish skin and its nutritional super powers) but would not serve to a guest. The flesh right underneath the skin is the prime rib of the underwater world. Trust me, it even tastes a bit like it. It’s incredible.
Fifth. The flavour. I should have started with this one. I mean, I really love tuna, specially Toro. Sturgeon is in its own category. Once gently cooked the texture is very similar to that of tuna belly. There are very delicate notes of tuna in there but also a pretty distinct sturgeon beautiful proud flavour that reminded me of sablefish.
Ingredients (serves 2. Cooking time: 15 mins)
2 surgeon fillets
6 shimeji mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
Maldon salt to fish it up.
Broccoli florets for garnishing.
Squid Ink Cauliflower Puree (makes about a pint of it, store the leftovers)
1 whole cauliflower
1 Tbsp squid ink
1/2 Cup heavy cream
This is gonna go down quite quickly because one of the good news about cooking fish is the fact that it is extremely easy and fast.
Start with the squid ink cauliflower puree. Trim all the green bits off. Steam a whole cauliflower in pot with about a 1cm of water. Lid on. About 10 mins. I used my pressure cooker pot just because the lid seals better. I don’t pressure cook it but it cooks more efficiently. The cauliflower shouldn’t be overcooked and falling apart. Just soft enough to be easily cut into cubes. Add the cubes to the blender. Add some cream and try to get traction inside that blender. I stop adding cream the moment I the blender gets going and all of its content is happily blending away. Add a Tbsp of squid ink to the blender and keep on blending. Total blending time about 10 mins. You can go longer if you want smoother. No need to add salt as squid ink already has been preserved by loads of it, but check the for taste and adjust if necessary. Set aside. For a super silky puree, sieve away.
Now the sturgeon. Salt generously and set in the fridge for at least 10 mins, letting some of that salt permeate the fish. I rested mine for 1 hour. Add some almond oil to a nonstick pan over high heat. Lower to medium high don’t let the oil burn. Stay right around 400F. Place the fillet skin down first and sear for about 3 mins. Remove the pan from the stove. Add a little splash of water (watch for oil splatter obviously) and cover the pan with a lid right away. Allow the fish to get steamed this way. Takes about 3 mins if the fish is fridge cold. less than 2 if the fish is closer to room temperature. I like the flavour of almond oil. It pairs really well with fish in general.
The little shimeji mushrooms. After removing the fish from the pan and setting it aside to rest and letting the carryover heat to finish the job get those beautiful mushrooms ready. Make sure there aren’t any dirt on them. Place the pan with all those wonderful fish juices back on the stove over high heat. Once hot… again…. around 400F. Get those shrooms in there and get a little color on them. About 2 mins. They will get coated with delicious fish stock and almond oil. Yes. Sounds good, I know.
The plating. Up to you. I made a mess on mine. Just make sure all those preparations make it on the plate and you’re good to go!