pompano a la nage

   One of my favorite ways to serve fish is "a la nage." It's a classic French dish whose name simply means "swimming." In this recipe, fillets of pompano are swimming in a clam broth. A nage is a good dish for the spring and summer because it's nice and light. Almost any fish can be served this way. Black cod and salmon are two good choices. I originally planned on making this with striped bass, but they didn't have any at the market when I went to go get some. Instead I found pompano. It's a white fleshed fish from Florida that has a similar flavor to red snapper, but the flesh is even firmer and meatier. Whatever fish you do choose, make sure you get the bones too for flavoring the broth. I like to start with chicken stock for a deeper flavour, but you can make the fish stock using only water.   
        I pan seared the fillets so that the skin would get nice and crispy, but alternately, you can poach the fish in the broth. The skin obviously wont crisp up when poached, so it's better to remove the skin first if you are going to poach the fish. The fish sits atop a mound of carrot and leek "tagliatelle." This is simply carrots and leeks that have been cut into ribbons and then poached in the broth until they have the texture of al-dente pasta. The dish is then garnished with a handful of crispy fried leeks to give it a bit of crunch. 
         If you are looking for a quick and easy solution for dinner, you can make a simplified version of this dish. You can skip making the clam broth and simply poach some vegetables and fish in chicken stock. It won't have the full flavour of the long version, but it will still make a great dinner if you start with good fresh fish and vegetables.  

Cooking time 1 hour. Prep time 20 minutes. Serves 2

400g pompano filets + bones
12 littleneck clams
1 leek
1 lbs carrots
1 small onion
1 head garlic
600 ml low sodium chicken broth
200 ml dry white wine
1/4 bunch fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup vegetable oil
salt & fresh ground pepper

1. Peel the carrots, and then using the vegetable peeler, cut the carrots into long thin strips. Set the strips aside and place the cores of the carrots in a large pot. Cut the bottom part of the leek where the roots are and discard. Cut the white part of the leek into two 5cm (2 inch) pieces and set aside. Place the remaining green top in the stock pot with the carrots. Cut the onion and garlic in half (skin on) and add them to the pot. Add the chicken stock and half (100ml) of the white wine. If desired, add a few sprigs of thyme and 1 bay leaf. Add water if necessary to make sure the fish and vegetables are covered. Bring to a gentle boil and then let simmer for 45 minutes. 

2. Take one of two 5cm pieces of leek and cut it down the middle. Finely julienne the leek and then rinse in cold water. Heat 1 cup of oil in a small pot. Toss the julienned leeks in flour and then fry until just starting to brown, about 45 seconds. Transfer to paper towel.

3. Cut the remaining leek into quarters lengthwise and then rinse in cold water. Put the clams in a pot with 100ml white wine. Let simmer with a lid on until all the clams are open, about 5 - 8 minutes. Remove the clams and then add the strained stock. Let simmer until reduced by half. Add the carrots and leeks to the broth then simmer until the vegetables are al-dente, about 3 minutes. Return the clams to the broth, stir in the butter and keep warm.

4. Cut the fish into 2 cm cubes. Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick pan. Sear the fish skin-side down for 4 minutes. Turn the fish and cook the other side for 2 more minutes.

To serve: Place a small pile carrots & leeks in the center of 2 shallow bowls. Place 6 clams in each bowl. Place the fish over the vegetables and then pour in 1 cup of broth. Garnish the fish with crispy leeks.


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