Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Recipe: Haddock “Devil” with Puff Pastry

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. – C. S. Lewis 

Puff pastry atop haddock poached in a spicy cream sauce.
Here’s a recipe for a weeknight or an evening when you have company. It only takes about 40 minutes from start to finish. That’s the "fast enough for a weeknight" part. The company part is that it’s quite beautiful to look at. I’m not sure my pictures do it justice.

Real puff pastry. Photo: North River Food, Flickr ccl
If you want “fancy” always think of using puff pastry. It’s notoriously complicated to make at home, regardless how easy Julia Child used to make it seem on PBS. That’s why the home chef shouldn't feel bad about using frozen pastry from the grocer. 

You can get an actual butter puff pastry at one of the local groceries. The majority of pre-made rely on shortening, which changes the flavour and colour of the pastry significantly. Look for the butter variety and use it if you can find it.

Now it’s not really nearly as good as homemade, but in a pinch, for spectacular layers of flakiness, it will do. If you want to experience the “real deal” without making it yourself go to some of the bakers that frequent the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. They have the facility (and ability) to pull it off.

So that’s the puff pastry part. The haddock part should be self-explanatory. But where hides the devil? Well, the devil lurks in two ingredients in the sauce: dijon mustard and cayenne. 

Cayenne pepper. Photo: Wiki CC
Dijon is a wonderfully spicy mustard made with wine (recipe here). Cayenne is a red hot pepper related to bell peppers. It is used culinarily, as well as in medicine. It is rated at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units. Jalapenos rate 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units.

Since we only use a small amount in the recipe the end result isn’t overly hot – but does leave a warmth on the lips. You know there’s something spicy lurking with all those delicious onions and celery.

Don’t cheap out and use "doctored" celery soup. The sauce only takes a few minutes and it is so superior there’s no comparison.

This recipe is based very, very loosely on a recipe I found called “white devil.” I kept the devil and haddock and changed everything else. It’s amazing what you can do with a few simple ingredients and some inspiration!

Haddock “Devil” with Puff Pastry
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 10 min  |  Bake: 20 min  | Serves 4
1 to 1-1/2 lbs haddock fillets (2-3 filets)
1/4 cup butter
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp tarragon, dried (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 package puff pastry
16 oz package baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Chop the haddock into pieces and line the bottom of an 8” square baking dish. 

While the oven heats, melt the butter in a saucepan and sauté the onions and celery until the onions are translucent. Add the flour and mix well. Let cook for 1 minute.

Slowly add the milk and whisk until thickened. It will appear too thick for a béchamel, but some liquid will come out of the haddock and thin it down. Add the mustard, tarragon, cayenne, salt and pepper. Mix well and pour over the fish.

Roll out one square of puff pastry from the package into an 8”x8” square. Trim if necessary. In Canada puff pastry is sold in packages with two squares. Place the pastry on a baking tray.*

Place both the fish and pastry in the hot oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes remove the nearly baked pastry and put it on top of the fish. Put it back in the oven and let cook for a further 5-7 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. 

While the fish is cooking, wash and cook the spinach with some salt. You really don’t need to add any more water than that stuck to the leaves after washing. Many people drown their spinach and then have to squeeze out the excess water.

Remove the fish from the oven and cut the pastry top into 4 equal pieces. Plate some spinach and serve the fish and pastry on top.

* Baking the pastry separately helps prevent a “soggy” bottom and undercooked crust.


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