John Dory with Sauerkraut and Juniper Sabayon

The idea for this dish is pinched from Le Crocodil restaurant in Strasbourg. Anja and I ate there with my brother and his wife, who live not far away in Basel. I had booked the table using Relais and Châteaux headed notepaper (at the time I worked at Gidleigh Park which was a member), so we received personal attention from the chef-patron. We were seated at chairs used the previous week to accommodate Mrs Thatcher’s bottom and the patron politely asked my brother what brought him to the area. In those days my brother was a garbage man and the conversation took a humorous turn as he explained to the incredulous owner that we weren’t as refined and august as it might appear. Madame wasn’t surprised as she had assessed our scruffy clothes and car earlier. The meal, however, was quite brilliant.

Le Crocodil’s version employs zander, a freshwater fish caught locally but one that’s actually rather dull because it hasn’t been to sea. I use john dory because it’s firm enough to balance the creamy sauce and strong enough to match the sauerkraut, which is important even though not much is used.

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Ingredients

  • 2 large or 4 small john dory, about 1 kg (2lb 4oz) in total
  • 4 tablespoons sauerkraut 50ml (2fl oz/½ cup) white wine
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • a dash of Tabasco sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped carrots
  • salt

Method

Fillet the fish or have this done for you. Place ½ to 1 tablespoon of sauerkraut on top of each fillet, depending on whether you have 8 or 4 pieces. Steam for 5 to 8 minutes or until cooked.

Meanwhile, heat the wine and juniper berries together gently. In a rounded pan or a bowl suspended over hot water, whisk the egg yolks and juniper-flavoured wine together over a low heat to give a sabayon – the yolks will thicken as they cook and the volume of sauce will almost double’. Season the sabayon with lemon juice, Tabasco sauce and salt.

Scatter the chives and chopped carrot around the plates then lay the steamed fish and sauerkraut at the centre of each. Spoon the sabayon on top and serve immediately.

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