Coconut Trout Confit with Beetroot Fondant

It’s almost 4 years now that I filleted a whole fish for the first time in my life. Since then I stopped counting the number of fish I’ve filleted and really gained routine in getting clean and beautiful cuts as result. Nowadays I prefer to buy whole fish at the local market, because this way I can use the bones, head, tail and fins as well to cook a flavorful fish stock, which really enhances sauces, risottos and soups. I prefer to buy local and traditional fish such as trout, char or carp. Sea fish are no options for me, because I don’t have any reliable source for buying fresh seafood, and my hometown Erlangen is simply too far away from the sea.

Regarding the connection between seafood consumption and the distance to the sea, I had a surprising experience a few years ago in Italy, which I like to bring up every time I’m asked about seafood. I was lucky to get a publication accepted at a major conference in computer science, which was held in the beautiful city of Florence. Of course, I used the lunch breaks and the evenings to explore the local restaurant scene. I was even more fortunate having a receptionist at my hotel who was actually a native Florentine citizen. As almost everybody in Italy, he loved to eat, and especially to eat well. So from the first day on I consulted him which restaurant he recommends me to visit. I wasn’t a regular tourist, I really wanted to get to know the real local cuisine. He always told me only the next location I should go to and based on my report the next day he recommended me the next place to visit. This tactic was quite comprehensible, because I could have been a usual tourist, who actually might have been afraid of tripe, wild boar or other local specialties. But he pretty soon learned, that I was after the real local cuisine.

One evening I turned left a little bit too early and landed in the wrong restaurant – at least it wasn’t the one that my receptionist recommended me for that night. Although I had a pleasant evening, the place was very different from my previous experiences – less Italians, more tourists and somehow the food didn’t match the standard I got used to very quickly in Florence. I mean the food was quite decent, but for example the main course featuring a slice of octopus terrine on some salad lacked acidity. No vinaigrette, no lemon, no vinegar. Octopus is actually sweet and to my opinion always needs to be balanced by some acid. Next day, as every day, I told my receptionist about my experiences from the previous evening and also mentioned my problem with the octopus dish. My native Florentine concierge explained to me, that – except for 2 or 3 special and expensive restaurants – it is not advised to eat any seafood in Florence, because the city is simply too far away from the seashore. I looked it up on Google Maps: Florence is actually about 80kms away from the Mediterranean Sea, by car this distance might grow up to 110kms. In Italian or Florentine terms 100kms is already too far away for eating any seafood in Florence. Well, after this experience of regional cuisine I focus even more on locally sourced fish and try to avoid seafood when not being next to a seashore.

Coconut Trout Confit with Beetroot Fondant, Buckwheat and White Poppy Seed and Lemon Puree

For this dish I used the trout from my fishmonger at the local market. The preparation is very simple: I simply sprinkled the fillets with oil, covered it with clingfilm and cooked them just barely through in the oven. I chose coconut oil, because its fresh taste makes the fish even lighter. On the side, I served some buckwheat cooked in vegetable stock and garnished with fresh dill. Next to the buckwheat I used chioggia beets, which I baked, cut into cylinders, roasted on both sides and cooked with stock and butter into a kind of beet fondant. Inspired by the beet affinity of my friend Noémi, I paired the beets with poppy seeds. In this case I used white poppy seeds, which have a slightly more nutty flavor compared to the common black ones. I worked the white poppy seeds into a smooth paste using a puree made of blanched lemons. The paste had a strong flavor when used pure, but accompanied by the fish, the beet and the buckwheat the lemony paste worked great and really enhanced all flavors on the plate.

Coconut Trout Confit with Beetroot Fondant

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: 2 portions

Coconut Trout Confit with Beetroot Fondant

Ingredients

  • 2 trout fillets
  • 1 handful fresh dill
  • neutral oil (e.g. sunflower, grapeseed)
  • 1.5 lemons
  • 4 tbsp white poppy seed
  • 2-3 tbsp poppy seed oil
  • 2 small chioggia beets
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 50g buckwheat
  • pinch of sugar
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt
  • butter
  • coconut oil

Instructions

For the dill oil
Wash the dill. Holding the thick end of the bunch shortly blanch the dill in boiling hot water, then chill immediately in ice-water. Drain and cut off the thick ends you were holding. Coarsely chop the blanched dill and weigh. Add the double weight neutral oil and blend well. Leave for 3-4 hours in the fridge, then drain through a coffee filter. The resulting clear green oil keeps for 5-7 days refrigerated or several month in the freezer.
For the lemon-poppy-seed paste
Wash the lemon with hot water to rub off the wax layer. Sting the lemon with a knife and add to a large pot. Cover with about 2l water and cook covered for 1 hour. Drain the cooking liquid and replace with fresh water. Bring to a boil and repeat the water change 4 times. Drain and chill the lemon to room temperature. Cut the lemon into chunks and discard the seeds. Grind the white poppy seeds and blend with the cooked lemon (and its liquid) to a fine puree. While blending, add the poppy seed oil and season with salt and a pinch of sugar. Press through a fine sieve to remove any unwanted solids and reserve 1 tbsp for this dish. Freeze the remaining paste for another purpose.
For the trout
Wash the fillets under cold water and tap dry using kitchen paper. Remove the skins with a sharp knife and discard any leftover bones. Warm the coconut oil until it just turns liquid. Sprinkle 2-3 tbsp coconut oil on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Add the trout fillets on the plate next to each other and sprinkle with coconut oil. Cover the plate with clingfilm and leave at room temperature.
For the beets
Wash the beets, drain with kitchen paper and wrap in aluminium foil. Bake in 200°C / 390 F hot oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and chill to room temperature. Unwrap, peel and cut cylinders from the beets using a cookie cutter.
Bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Heat 2 tbsp coconut oil in a small pan and roast the baked beets on both sides. Season with salt. Add 100ml vegetable stock and 2 tsp butter. Cook over medium heat until the stock has reduced to a slightly thick sauce.
For the buckwheat
Wash the buckwheat in a sieve with boiling hot water. Cook the buckwheat with 100ml vegetable stock for 15-20 minutes. Season afterwards with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
To serve
Warm the lemon-poppy-seed puree over low heat.
Heat the oven to 100°C / 210 F. Add the covered plate with the trout for about 6-7 minutes.
Put 1 beet cylinder on a warm plate and add some buckwheat next to it. Add a few drops of lemon-poppy-seed paste and decorate with dill. Gently transfer a trout fillet to the plate and sprinkle with dill oil.
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