Insalata di Luccio

Pike Salad

This is one of the only sane ways of treating pike. Dishes like Quenelles de Brochet require pushing the pulped fish flesh through a fine sieve to remove innumerable bones, a job only to be wished on the disciples of Marco Pierre White or other three-Michelin-starred chefs. Here the fish is poached, allowed to cool in its poaching liquid, then flaked carefully by hand, a much easier method of de-boning. Your fishmonger will be able to get pike if you push him.

The weight quoted here is a cleaned weight, i.e. no head, guts or tail. A 1.5 kg fish will be fine if you have pike-fishing friends. (You can substitute large mackerel successfully.)

Ingredients

  • 1 × 1 kg pike
  • ½ bottle dry white wine
  • 2 large onions, peeled and cut into rings
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 celery heart, green outer leaves removed, sliced into rings
  • 2 bay leaves, but Kaffir lime leaves would be better
  • 1 wine glass white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • very good olive oil

Method

The day before cut the fish into 5 cm thick steaks (have your fishmonger do this for you), and leave in cold salted water overnight. This will remove the second drawback to pike, its slightly muddy taste.

Put the wine, vegetables, bay leaves and vinegar in a wide casserole. Add 1.5 litres water, season with a generous amount of salt, and add the parsley stalks and peppercorns. Bring this mixture to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Then add the pike steaks, return to the boil, cover and turn off the heat. Allow the fish to cool nearly completely in this court-bouillon.

Pick out the pike, peel off the skin and, working patiently, pull the cooked flesh away from the bones, placing it in a bowl. Drain the court-bouillon, reserving 200 ml of liquid and all the vegetables. Discard the bay leaves, peppercorns and parsley stalks. Mix the vegetables with the pike flesh (they will be crunchy and slightly pickled from the court-bouillon whose acidity prevents them from softening). Refrigerate the bowl.

Put the reserved court-bouillon on to boil and reduce by at least 70 per cent. Taste for excess salt and acidity, remembering that it is a dressing base, so it should be strongly flavoured. Add 350 ml olive oil and return to the boil, then remove from the heat immediately and whisk thoroughly to cool and emulsify. When cool, add to the pike and vegetables, and toss thoroughly. Chop the parsley leaves coarsely and add to the salad, tossing again. Do not refrigerate the salad once dressed.

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