I must be on the road to hell. Because all I ever see around me are good intentions, such good intentions. My mother is visiting and so Friday she met me at work for lunch. We went to a local café and each had sausage with a very heavy, creamy, greasy tartiflette. For those who don't know it, it's a kind of cheesy potato and bacon casserole, very satisfying on a cold day but also extremely high in calories. So that evening when we were shopping for dinner, I suggested we get a few pieces of nice fish, to give our waistlines a break. We picked out a package of three filets of cod and brought them home.
I was looking for something new to do with the fish and remembered the plastic container of oyster liquor in our freezer. When I made oyster stuffing for the bird at Thanksgiving I didn't need all the water I had carefully conserved from the oysters and so I froze it. Yum. And onions would go well. And what about mushrooms? And wine, of course. And then, if I wanted to serve it over a bed of pasta (we had rice for dinner the night before) of course I would need to thicken it a bit. Cream.
Good intentions, as I say. But Weight Watchers Hell.
I think you could probably substitute a tin of oysters with some of the oyster liquid if you don't happen to have a container of frozen oyster liquor in your fridge. But this dish does demonstrate my favourite mantra about cooking: Never Throw Anything Tasty Away. Freeze it.* If you use the canned stuff, I would add a few oysters and very little of the liquor and then taste it before adding any more. The canned stuff will probably be a bit saltier and stronger flavoured.
One of the beauties of cooking fish is how little time it takes. Start your rice or pasta boiling and then make the sauce. Once the sauce is simmering and the rice or pasta nearly done, you can start the fish and the whole thing will be finished and assembled on a plate in about 20 minutes.
Fish with Creamy Oyster Sauce
2-3 filets of white fish: cod, halibut, sole, whatever is fresh
1/3 cup oyster liquor
1/2 glass of dry white sparkling wine
3-4 Tbs unsalted butter
250 grams white mushrooms
1 clove of garlic
1 small onion
1 Tbs parsley
1/3 cup cream
Start some rice or pasta cooking - enough for two or three people depending on how many filets you have.
Place half the butter in a small frying pan over a medium high heat. Once it begins to froth, but before it browns, add the onion, sliced in thin half-rings. As they soften, wash and slice the mushrooms. Add them to the mix, adding a bit more butter if necessary. Once the mushrooms and onions are soft and fragrant, add the wine and reduce by half. Use a garlic press to add the garlic as it is bubbling away. Add the oyster liquor and allow it to simmer while you rinse off the fish.
In a separate pan, put a little butter to melt. When it froths, add the fish and turn up the heat. If you like (and especially if your fish is not robust enough to making turning it over feasible) you can cover the fish. Next time I might use monkfish, which is a much easier fish to turn over and does not result in unappetizing fish-flakes-on-pasta.
Turn down the heat on the sauce and add the cream. If you want to be absolutely sure that the cream does not separate, you should spoon a little sauce into the cream, mix it, and then pour the cream back into the sauce. I find that here in France, for some reason, the cream rarely separates. So I live dangerously. Stir in the parsley - fresh or frozen - and keep warm.
Plate your pasta or rice (pasta was a nice departure but much messier eating, as it was spaghetti) and pour a little of the sauce over it. Top with the fish and then spoon some of the mushrooms, onions and sauce over the fish. Serve with a nice dry sparkling wine, preferably the one you used in the sauce.
* And whatever you do, don't forget to label your container with the contents and date - I cannot tell you the pounds of Tasty Things I have had to throw away over the years simply because I didn't know what it was or how long it had been lingering in the back of the freezer. I now keep a roll of masking tape and a marker in a drawer in the kitchen and never tell the Critic it's there for fear he'll borrow them.