Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sea bass two ways: quenelle in fish fumet and roulade with seafood and shrimp bisque reduction

In my previous post I promised you two recipes we prepared during the the course at the cooking school Salotto del Gusto with Chef Maurizio Dall'Omo.
As impressive and fancy as they look, they were both quite simple and really let the main ingredient to shine through. They are perfect to serve at a dinner party: I promise your guests will think you slaved away in the kitchen all day.

It is hard to give you exact quantities as there were so many of us, but I would calculate one average sized Mediterranean sea bass per diner, if you are making both courses.

Sea bass quenelle in fish fumet

As a starter we made a sea bass quenelle in a fish fumet. The fumet was exceptional, so simple and essential, yet full of flavor... the true essence of the sea in a spoonful. The quenelle was extremely delicate in texture and taste and perfectly accentuated by the thyme.


1 seabass filet per person
olive oil

fish bones
spring onion/leek or onion
First things first: quenelling is a technique used to present soft foods, savory and sweet, like mashed potatoes, mousses, pates, creams, ice cream etc. in an elegant manner. They are made using one or two spoons and the result is a clean, oval shape. 
After filleting our sea bass, we separated the fish bones from the heads and set aside the nicer filets for our second course. For the quenelles we used the not-as-successful results of the filleting, i.e. mine among others. So while you are practicing your filleting skills, keep this recipe in mind, because it will come in handy!
Start by making the fumet, as it requires a little cooking. As you might remember from my last post, fumet is made using only the bones of the fish. Leaving out the heads ensures a clearer, lighter, more delicate stock.
Follow the steps indicated in my previous post for an extra flavourful stock: prepare a mire poix of carrots, celery and spring onion or leek (they are not as strong as onions), sauté the carrots and celery in a hot pot without oil so as to reduce the water content, concentrating their flavor. When they start turning dark and caramelizing add your allium of choice and a good glug of olive oil. Sauté a few more minutes, add the bones and then throw in a few ice cubes and pour in enough cold water to cover the bones, causing a thermal shock that will bring out all the flavor. When the water starts boiling cook for about 20 minutes. The amounts you are using depend on how many fish bones you have but remember, you want to keep the flavors quite concentrated. Also, the chef garnishes this dish with some pink Himalayan salt at the end so we did not salt the stock, but if you don't plan to, don't forget to add some salt.
While the fumet is simmering away, cut the filets into chunks and mix them in  bowl with a small pinch of salt, some freshly ground pepper, a few sprigs of thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. Transfer the fish into the bowl of a food processor and process until it turns into a mousse.
At this point you can start making your quenelles, using two table spoons to scoop the mousse from one spoon to the other towards you until you obtain the typical three-sided oval shape (there are several tutorials online). If you can't be bothered with technique, you can make little balls with your hands. The quenelles/fish balls can be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge covered with cling film, or you can make them express.
Professionally made quenelle
When you are ready, set out as many bowls as you will  be needing. Pour the fumet through a sieve to separate it from the vegetables and fish bones. Heat it up in a separate sauce pan or small pot and ladle as much as you need to poach the quenelles in. When it is simmering, delicately lower the quenelles into the fumet and cook for just about two minues, then take them out with a skimmer. Place one or two quenelles into the bottom of the bowl, ladle over some of the fumet, drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle over some salt and serve. Repeat this for every guest.
Amateur quenelle
If you have some leftover quenelles, or if you want to make an easy weeknight meal, you can dust them lightly with flower and then cook them in a saute pan with fumet/stock and butter, as pictured below.


Sea bass roulade with seafood and shrimp bisque reduction

The second dish we prepared was a shrimp and sea bass roulade with sea food and a shrimp bisque reduction. The presentation is very classy, yet its preparation is so much easier than you would expect. It is worth the extra few minutes of work, trust me!

1 shrimp per seving
1 sea bass filet per serving
1 leaf lettuce per serving
mussels, 2 per serving
baby cuttlefish, 1 or 2 per serving
spring onion/leek or onion
shrimp shells
olive oil
You will need one whole shrimp, shell on, per roulade.
Peel, clean and butterfly the shrimp: start by pulling the head, then the legs off and finally pull the shell apart, starting near the head and loosening it all the way down to the tail. Grab the shrimp by the tail, squeeze the tip and the flesh will come right out. Set the heads and shells aside. With a knife, make a shallow cut down the back of the shrimp to expose a fine black or white vein, which is the crustacean's digestive tract. Devein by pulling it out with the tip of a knife or your hands. Then butterfly by running the knife along the back, making sure that the body is sliced into two attached halves. Set aside.
Butterflied shrimp behind the bisque
Prepare your bisque: make a mire poix, using the same technique as above. The only difference is that you will add a good shot of brandy to the water. Salt lightly. Make sure the liquid just covers the shells and let cook about 20 minutes. When the bisque is ready, separate the solids and concentrate the bisque further by boiling it down.
Mussels sauteeing in front of blanched lettuce leaves
In the meantime, separate as many leaves  from a head of lettuce (iceberg works too) as the amount of roulades you plan to make. Blanch in a pan of hot water and then, one by one, spread the leaves out in front of you, with the wider end closest to you. Vertically lay a sea bass filet in the leaf, with the wider side closest to you. Then place a shrimp perpendicularly to the seabass on the wider end, the one closest to you. The shrimp and sea bass should basically form a T, with the shrimp as the shorter part. Roll the leaf and  fish as tight as you can, tucking the edge of the lettuce leaf inside, and then, using a small piece of plastic wrap and wrap the whole roulade like a piece of candy, securing the ends with a tight knot.
Poach in a large saute pan for about 10 minutes. You can turn the heat off and just leave them in there, until you are ready.
Some are prettier than others
While the roulades are poaching, clean the  mussels (count about two per roulade) by soaking them in water to get rid of grit, de-bearding them and checking the open ones by tapping them. If they don't close after a minute or so, discard them along with the broken ones. Sauté in a pan to open them (you don't need to add any liquids).
Next, clean the baby squid, by getting rid of the tentacles, cutting them open and slightly scoring them diagonally. Quickly pan fry in hot oil for less than a minute or they will turn rubbery and tough.
When all your parts are ready, you can start working on the presentation.
Take out a roulade and cut in half diagonally without unwrapping. Gently nudge the roll out of the plastic wrap and place in the center of the plate (see photo). Scatter a couple of mussels and cuttlefish around it and drizzle with the bisque reduction. Garnish with a drizzle of best quality extra virgin olive oil (in the picture you can also see a balsamic flavored reduction, but it was a condiment the chef had prepared previously. If you have any very good quality, reduced balsamic, decorate the plate with a few drops and then run a toothpick through them for the fancy effect).
Serve warm.
My presentation is definitely not as pretty, but you can really see the shrimp and the scoring on the cuttlefish


  1. Wow, che piattino!!! certo che vedere uno chef in azione è un onore, tante cose da imparare e provare... e tu hai riprodotto questo piatto benissimo, chissà che gusto e che profumi!

  2. So simple if one analyses it but so effective . . . and only the best quality and freshest ingredients would bring out the classical flavours. Cannot see anyone plating it better . . .

  3. What fabulous techniques you are learning here! I love the look of everything that you made :D

  4. Wow wow wow how fabulous! You make it all look so easy and both dishes look delicious! I have always wanted to make fish quenelles but it always seemed so difficult. And I didn't realized you could roll them in flour and give them a quick fry. The rouleaux look delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipes!

  5. As always, I absolutely love the simplicity of true Italian cuisine. This is a wonderful post, and I will be making these both. I have improved my quenelle skills over the years, but I have a fear of fish fumet. Time to put on my big boy pants and do it! The roulade preparation was a surprise for me - and I can't wait to try that, too. It is hard to find a while sea bass here, but I can use the pre-filleted ones, right? Thanks for this post - I have waited most of the week for my quiet Saturday morning to enjoy this... ~ David

    1. Absolutely, you just need the filet for the roulade, but the bones are the main ingredient for the fumet... in any case, you can skip the fumet as the true star is the roulade and some very good drizzle of EVO is sufficient in my opinion to complement the flavor of the poached fish. Thank you for your kind words and hope you had a great week end

  6. What an exciting course and you must have learned so much. I'm impressed with the quenelles but the roulade is very pretty and so well presented - it's gorgeous xx

  7. Wow, interesting techniques and results! Delicious!


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