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Breton Fish Stew (Cotriade)


(serves 6)
This is my version of a classic from Brittany, the fish stew that Breton fishermen enjoy after a hard day at sea, the Cotriade. Unlike the more popular French bouillabaisse which relies on tomatoes and crustaceans for a base flavour, the Bretons prefer their fish stew au natural. Its harder to achieve a flavourful seafood stew that is white but when you do it right, the pure unadulterated flavour of fish makes a world of difference.  

IngredientsContriade

  1. White Fish Fillets (500g)
  2. Black Mussels (500g)
  3. Canned Sardines in oil (2 x 120g wet weight)
  4. Canned Anchovies in oil (50g wet weight)
  5. White Wine (1 cup)
  6. Minced Garlic (3T)
  7. Onions (2)
  8. Celery (2 cups chopped)
  9. Carrot (1)
  10. Bread (3 slices)
  11. Thyme
  12. Dill Weed

Preparation Part I

  1. Leave 3 slices of bread in the open to dry overnight.
  2. Cut the crust off the bread and cube the bread into 1cm pieces. Cut the crust into small pieces as well, but separately. Toast the bread cubes till they are brown and then crush in a zip loc bag with a mallet.
  3. Dice one onion. Place the onion bits into a large pot. Partially open one of the sardine tins and pour its oil into the pot. Turn on the heat and occasionally stir fry the onions.
  4. In the meanwhile, spoon all the sardines and anchovies including their oil into a bowl with 3T of minced garlic. Mash everything up with a spoon.
  5. When the onions are soft, turn up the heat and add the fish and garlic mash. Stir fry for a minute, continuing to mash up the fish. Next, add 1 cup of white wine, wait a further minute and then add 4 cups of water and 2T of chopped thyme. This is the stock for your stew.
  6. While the stock is simmering on low heat, cut an onion into 6 wedges, dice 2 cups of celerey and 3/4 cups of carrot. Add this to the stock together with the bread crumbs.
  7. While the veggies are cooking, soak your mussels in water for a few minutes. Also, cut your white fish into chicken nugget sized pieces. You can leave the skin on. Marinate with 2T of oil and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Do not put either the mussels or fish into the pot yet.
  8. Continue the simmer until the onion wedges turn into soft individual petals. Then turn off the heat.

Preparation Part II

  1. This is the part you do about fifteen minutes before serving your stew.
  2. Bring the pot up to a full boil.
  3. Add the clams and continue boiling for 1 minute.
  4. Next add the marinated fish making sure all the pieces are submergedand. Continue boiling for 1 minute (less if you fish pieces are not thick, but never more).
  5. Turn off the heat but leave the pot covered for 10 minutes while the fish continues to cook .
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper to bring out the full flavour of the stew. Garnish with a sprinkle of dill weed or chopped parsley.

 Notes

  • When I first decided to come up with my own cotriade recipe, I was confronted with a typical dilemma. Fish gets hard and then flakes up if it is boiled for more than a short while. But, any kind of stew needs to be simmered for a long time for it to develop its full flavour. Many fish stew recipes get around this by using tomatoes (or worse bacon) for the base flavour, but that is the easy way out. The solution was to use canned fish and wine to form the base flavour.
  • The next challenge was to get rid of the fishy smell and taste of the canned sardines. After some experimentation, I found that the combination of onions, garlic and deglazing with wine at a high temperature did the trick. When you see the stew frothing up a bit after adding the wine, don’t worry, this is normal. Its just the fishiness going away.
  • The sardine stock in turn allows us to just par boil the fresh fish right at the end, so it remains intact and tender. A fish stew is supposed to have 3 types of fish for variety so I recommend you use 2 types of fresh fish. Cod I find is one of the best choices, and I also like pomfret and sole, but basically any kind of fish white fish would do. The most important thing is to not overcook the fish.
  • Besides tomatoes, the other ingredient I didn’t want to use was potatoes, which would make it more like a chowder (or worse, like beef stew). This presented another problem: how do I give the stew some body? Then I got to thinking, well you eat French stews with bread, so why not just have the bread already boiled into the stew? That worked out well.
  • For the white wine, the oaky tones of a chardonnay is a perfect fit with the stew.
  • If you want a North Sea taste don’t use olive oil as it imparts a Mediterranean feel. I use sardines in sunflower seed oil for this stew.
  • Instead of using salt at the end, consider ‘cheating’ and using Hon Dashi pellets instead. It will bring out the best in your fish stew.
  • If you like French seafood stews, check out my bouillabaisse recipe.  
 
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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in A Kobi Original, French, Recipe, Seafood, Soups

 

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Coq au Vin with Chicken Breasts


(serves 3)
Coq au Vin is a wholesome simmered dish which hails from France. Traditional Coq au Vin recipes typically get you to boil your chicken to death as the flavour of the red wine matures and seeps into the meat. This method doesn’t work too well with chicken breasts which become dry and hard. To keep your chicken breasts tender, you’ll see from the recipe that I’ve taken a different approach. Since the aim is to cook a (more) healthy dish with white meat here, I’ve also factored in a way to bypass the need for chicken skin or lardons to react with the tannin in the wine
 
Ingredients Chicken Breast - Coq au Vin
  1. Chicken Breasts (600g)
  2. Luncheon Meat (200g)
  3. Onion (1)
  4. Shallots (8)
  5. Mushrooms (100g)
  6. Carrot (1)
  7. Garlic (1 bulb = 12 cloves)
  8. Red Wine (1 cup)
  9. Port (1/4 cup)
  10. Brandy (1/4 cup)
  11. White Rice (1T)
  12. Butter
  13. Chicken stock cube (1/2)
  14. Sage
  15. Thyme
  16. Oregano
  17. Paprika

Preparation

  1. Before proceeding with the rest of the recipe, brine your chicken breasts overnight or for at least 8 hours according to the recipe in this earlier post.
  2. Dry the brined chicken breasts with kitchen towels and rub on a dusting of paprika.
  3. Peel the garlic, shallots and onion. Cut the onion into 8 ‘quarters’ and slice the carrot into 1/3 inch pieces.
  4. Slice the luncheon meat (a.k.a. spam) block into 5 slices. Place this into a pot with half a mashed chicken stock cube, 1 cup of red wine, 1/4 cup port and 3 cups of water. Turn on the heat and bring to a low simmer.
  5. Add the garlic cloves, onion, shallots and carrot pieces. Sprinkle in 1 heaped T of raw rice  that has been rinsed (2T if cooked, without the rinse).
  6. Add 1t each of chopped sage, thyme and oregano. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour, uncovered. Top up with a bit of water as and when needed.
  7. OK, its one hour later. Melt 20g of butter in a second pot which is just big enough to fit the chicken breasts flat and without overlapping. When the butter begins to darken, sear the chicken breasts briefly in the butter to seal them and then quickly add the wine stew minus the luncheon meat.
  8. Top off with 1/4 cup brandy and the mushrooms (cut into halves). Make sure all the chicken is completely submerged.
  9. Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, or until you notice that the meat is just beginning to shrink. Turn off the fire and leave covered for half an hour while the chicken continues to slow cook. You can serve your Coq au Vin anytime thereafter, but its best to leave the pot to sit for a few hours as more wine flavour will be infused into the chicken.
  10. Briefly bring to a second boil before serving. If you need to thicken the stew further, boil it down but with the chicken breasts temporarily taken out – return the chicken to the pot for a final quick reheat. Taste and add salt if needed at the very end.

Notes

  • As you’ve noticed, we do the cooking in two stages. Making the wine vegetable stew first without the chicken is the ticket to getting the wine to mature without overcooking the chicken breast. This is followed up by a short cooking time and long soaking time for the chicken to get tender flavourful chicken, a technique they use in making Hainanese Chicken Rice.
  • Normally chunks of salted pork fat called lardons and chicken skin are needed to neutralize the tannin of red wine. This is where the luncheon meat comes in. In fact since luncheon meat contains ground up connective tissue, it works even better to mature the red wine. The other good thing about using luncheon meat is that it can be removed easily.
  • The rice is a convenient way to thicken the stew without the trouble of making a roux with flour.
  • Burgundy, which is light, is normally the wine of choice for Coq au Vin while a heavier wine like Bordeaux is used for braising collagen rich beef cheek and oxtail. With all the collagen in luncheon meat, you can afford to use a heavier wine for a more robust stew.  
 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in French, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Oxtail Braised in Red Wine


(serves 4)
Oxtail is loaded with gelatinous cartilage and tendon, making it the ideal cut of beef to interact with the tannin in red wine. It’s a pairing made in heaven. When braised sufficiently, the meat neutralizes the astringent bitterness of the wine, the wine at the same time tenderizes and flavours the meat. Add some common vegetables into the mix and what you get is the tenderest, tastiest morsels of beef you have ever eaten.
 
Ingredients
  1. Oxtail (1kg)
  2. Large Carrots (2)
  3. Onions (2)
  4. Red Shallots (12)
  5. Garlic (1 bulb = 12 cloves) 
  6. Brown Mushrooms (150g)
  7. Red Wine(1-1/4 cups)
  8. Cloves (6)
  9. Bay Leaves (5)
  10. Oxo Beef Cubes (2)
  11. Campbell’s Oxtail Soup (1 can)
  12. Woustershire Sauce
  13. Mustard 

Preparation

  1. If there is connective tissue (white stuff) left on the outside of your oxtail, cut some slits parallel to the bone in these areas to expose the meat beneath. Place the oxtail in a deep pot which has 2 times as much internal volume as the meat. Top off the pot with boiling water until the meat is just covered, add 1-1/4 cups of red wine and bring to a boil. Use a fuller wine, i.e. preferably not Pinot Noir / Burgundy.
  2. Add the can of oxtail soup, 6 bay leaves, 6 cloves, 2 Oxo cubes and 2T woustershire sauce. Keep on a low simmer for about 3 hours. You don’t have to have the fire on the entire time if you don’t want to. I usually just simmer for 15 minutes and leave the pot covered for 45 minutes, three times.
  3. Slice your carrots into thick discs, each onion into 8 wedges, and each mushroom into 4 (or 2 if they are small). Peel the garlic and shallots but leave them whole.
  4. Fish out the oxtail into a deep casserole with a quarter of the liquid. Discard the bay leaves and cloves. Throw all the vegetables into the remaining oxtail soup in the pot and keep on a low simmer for 1 hour.
  5. In the meanwhile, microwave the meat on high, covered for 3×3 = 9 minutes. Before you start and every 3 minutes thereafter, roll the oxtail around to keep them moist.
  6. After the oxtail pieces have cooled, strip the meat from the bone. It should come off easily without any cutting. If not, send it back to the microwave. Keep the meat morsels drenched in the drippings to prevent them from drying out. With 10 minutes to go on the vegetable simmer, return the meat (and drippings) to the pot.
  7. For taste, add 1T sugar, 1t mustard and a generous sprinkle of black pepper. Finally add salt incrementally until the sweet taste from the sugar is masked. This varies with each person’s tastes so I won’t suggest an exact amount. 

Notes

  • I bet you’re thinking…hmmm if I want to complicate things and put the veggies in before I take out the meat, I can save quite some time. Yes that’s true. 
  • The microwaving helps melt the remaining fat and connective tissue. If you don’t have a microwave, then you’ll have to roast the oxtail in the oven – before putting them to boil in the pot. This is the traditional way of doing it but I prefer the microwave method as it is more convenient.
  • This is not oxtail in a red wine reduction, but it is similar. If you want to cook a wine reduction version, follow the above recipe but…
    • skip the can of soup
    • skip the onions
    • skip the mustard 
    • reduce the Oxo cubes to 1
    • at the end, fish out the veggies (to be served on the side) and reduce the liquid to concentrate it.
  • Other cuts of meat suitable for this recipe are beef ribs, brisket and cheek.
  • If you like love oxtail but not the taste of wine, try my Scottish Oxtail Stew recipe instead. 
 
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Posted by on June 5, 2012 in French, Main Courses, Recipe, Red Meat

 

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Scottish Oxtail Stew


(serves 6)
The tail is one of the best parts of a cow for stewing. It is loaded with gelatin and its meat gets softer the longer you cook it. My particular version of oxtail stew uses barley as one of its ingredients, and contains no tomatoes or wine, hence my choice of a Scotch prefix.  The barley results in a very hearty stew, perfect for cold weather. Its a meal in itself, with no need for additional stapels or vegetarian side dishes. 
 
Ingredients
  1. Oxtail (1.5kg)
  2. Large Carrots (2)
  3. Onions (2)
  4. Potatoes (2) 
  5. Mushrooms (250g)
  6. Small Cabbage (1/2)
  7. Pearl Barley(1/3 cup)
  8. Black-eyed Beans (1/2 cup)
  9. Tarragon
  10. Oregano
  11. Bay Leaves
  12. Oxo Beef Cubes (3)
  13. Campbell’s Oxtail Soup (1 can)
  14. Whisky
  15. Woustershire Sauce 

Preparation – Part I

  1. If there is connective tissue (white stuff) left on the outside of your oxtail, cut some slits parallel to the bone in these areas to expose the meat beneath. Place the oxtail in a deep pot which has 3 times as much internal volume as the meat. Top off the pot with boiling water until the meat is just covered and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the can of oxtail soup, 6 bay leaves, 1T tarragon, 1T oregano and 2 Oxo cubes. Keep on a low simmer, covered, for about 3 hours. 
  3. Dice up half of your carrots, onions, mushrooms and fry them in a large non-stick saucepan with a knob of butter. This portion of the vegetables is meant to disintegrate, so chop them up finely and don’t worry about being tidy. After about fifteen minutes in the pan, add two cups of water with a Oxo cube dissolved in it, 1/3 cup of barley and 1/2 cup of black-eyed beans. Simmer this, again covered, for about an hour.
  4. If either the pot or saucepan starts to get low on water, add some to prevent them from drying up. When they are done, leave them covered with the heat off to settle for a few hours. This is the end of the preparatory stage and should be done several hours ahead of time or even the night before.

Preparation – Part II

  1. Now the final stage. Cut the remaining vegetables into sizes you want to see in the final stew. I normall cut the onion into 8 wedges, the mushrooms into quarters, the cabbage into 2 wedges and the carrots into round discs. The 2 potatoes should be peeled and diced into 1 inch pieces.
  2. Fish out the oxtail into a deep casserole with a bit of the soup, discard the bay leaves and microwave on high, covered for 9 minutes. The microwaving helps melt some of the remaining fat and connective tissue. Before you start and every 3 minutes thereafter, roll the oxtail around to keep them moist.
  3. Throw all the vegetables into the oxtail soup, including the pre-cooked vegetables from the sauce pan, and again bring to a low simmer.
  4. When the oxtail pieces has been microwaved, return them together with any drippings, to the pot. Stir every minute or so, until the new set of vegetables begin to soften. Then you add the final seasoning during the last ten minutes of cooking.
  5. For taste, add 3T sugar, 3T whisky, 3T woustershire sauce and a generous sprinkle of black pepper. Finally add salt incrementally until the sweet taste from the sugar disappears. This varies with each person’s tastes so I won’t suggest an exact amount. 

Notes

  • Why are we cooking the vegetables seperately from the oxtail? Because the small bits invariably get trapped under the oxtail and become burnt at the bottom of the pot. This way, you don’t have to watch the pot and keep stirring for several hours.   
  • Why are we cooking the vegetables seperately from each other? If we put all the vegetables in from the beginning, everything will disintegrate into a porridge. This way you get the wholesomeness of long cooked caramelized vegetables, plus some recognizable pieces when you serve.
  • Make sure you use polished pearl barley. The rougher partially polished hull barley is not edible and is meant to be discarded after cooking, or for distilling alcohol.
  • If you don’t have a microwave, then you’ll have to roast the oxtail in the oven – before putting them to boil in the pot. This is the traditional way of doing it but I prefer the microwave method as it is more convenient. Besides, it allows me to use a pot of a more manageable size.
  • The picture shows the entire stew on one plate. This is purely for aesthetics. Normally I’d serve the meat on a plate and the stew seperately in a bowl. If I am in a generous mood, I sometimes even strip the oxtail of meat at the end, which I then mix into the stew.
  • If you prefer your oxtail stewed French style, check out my oxtail braised in red wine recipe.
 
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Posted by on October 24, 2010 in English, Main Courses, Recipe, Red Meat

 

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