Lake Trout and Crawfish Ballotine

A few months back, I reported my giant catch of delicious, bright-orange-fleshed lake trout from Lake Ontario. Although I usually avoid freezing fish, that time I had no choice. This gave me plenty of trout to use, to try and perfect this ballotine recipe.

Russian Food - Lake Trout and Crawfish BallotineThere are many sources of inspiration for this recipe…

  • You might recall a dish I made during my trip to Vancouver last summer, the Crab-Stuffed Salmon Paupiette. Today’s recipe is like a freshwater, cold-appetizer counterpart.
  • You may also remember my mention of the herb salad that was served as a side at Mari Vanna. I thought this was a good concept, and came up with my own version.
  • As for the buckwheat “far”, a far breton is a prune cake from Brittany. While this might sound totally irrelevant to a Russian trout dish at first, Brittany happens to share with Russia an unusual love for buckwheat, and I found a recipe for a sweet buckwheat far in the summer 2012 issue of Culinaire Saisonnier. I started with that recipe, which was an utter failure in regards to texture and taste. Then I turned it into a savory dish, completely reworked the proportions, and got something quite interesting. People who aren’t familiar with the original dessert version might find the texture a bit spongy, but this is intentional.
  • Then there’s the Presidential Fish Roll I described in my most recent Kremlin Menu Watch. Who knows — next time he fishes in Siberia, Vlad might catch a giant salmonidae and look for some exceptional recipes. *cough*
  • Finally, living in New York City, my prospects for owning a full-blown smoker in the foreseeable future are next to nil. While I sometimes compensate by using smoked salt, there’s a gadget that I’d been eyeing for a few years: the Smoking Gun. Having finally succumbed to temptation, I’ve got to justify my purchase and learn how to use it. Of course, you can get somewhat similar results by using the aforementioned full-size smoker or smoked salt.

Lake trout fillet preparation

  • Skin the fillet, and remove the brown part from the skin side.
  • Remove all of the bones with tweezers.
  • Cut off the part closest to the tail. Cut off the belly side of the fillet that’s much thinner than the rest (less than 0.5″ thick). The goal is to have a piece of fish that’s pretty much rectangular.
  • Cut off the top part of the fillet that’s much thicker than the rest (over 0.75″ thick). The fish should now be of fairly even thickness throughout.
  • Reserve all of the cut off parts of the fillet, for use in the next part of the recipe.

Cured trout
Yields about 4 servings

0.25 oz salt
0.2 oz sugar
4,5 oz water
3 oz lake trout trimmings

  • Place the salt, sugar, and water in a blender, and process for a minute over low speed.
  • Transfer to a plastic container, add the trout fillet trimmings, and refrigerate for 6 hours.

Trout and crawfish stuffing
Yields about 4 servings

cured trout
2 oz butter
6.7 oz crawfish tails
1 g (1/8 tsp) salt
about 0.75 g (3/16 tsp) piment d’espelette

  • Take the cured trout out of the brine, and pat dry with paper towels. Sauté in a pan over medium heat with a little bit of the butter until cooked rare.
  • Transfer the fish to to a quart container, fill with wood smoke using a smoking gun, cover with a lid, and let rest for 2 minutes. Take out the trout, and let cool.
  • Drain the crawfish tails, reserving the liquid. Season the tails with the salt and piment d’espelette, and sauté in a pan over medium heat with a little bit of the butter for about a minute. Transfer to a cutting board, coarsely chop, then reserve in a bowl.
  • In the same frying pan, simmer the crawfish liquid until almost completely reduced, then mix with the chopped tail meat, and let cool.
  • Place the cooked trout and the rest of the butter in a blender, and process until smooth. Fold the purée into the crawfish meat using a spatula. Check the seasoning: the mixture should taste quite salty and slightly spicy. Cover, and refrigerature for 1 hour.

Russian Food - Lake Trout and Crawfish BallotineLake trout and crawfish ballotine
Yields about 4 servings

14 oz completely cleaned lake trout fillet (bones, skin, and brown part removed)
2 g (1/4 tsp) salt
trout and crawfish stuffing

  • Cut the trout fillet into two equal pieces, and season with salt.
  • Place one piece on a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape the stuffing into a log on top of the trout, as shown in the picture above. Cover with the other piece of fish, and roll into a cylinder in the plastic wrap. The stuffing should still be visible on both ends. Tightly wrap in another layer of plastic film, and refrigerate overnight.
  • Place the stuffed trout, still wrapped, into a sous-vide pouch. Cook in a 131 F water bath for 1 hour and 15 minutes,
  • Immediately shock the fish in a bowl of ice water, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Russian Food - Lake Trout and Crawfish BallotineFennel, radish and herb salad
Yields 4 servings

2 oz radishes
2 tsp olive oil
2 oz fennel bulb
1/2 tsp lemon juice
0.4 oz flat parsley leaves
0.1 oz dill leaves
salt

  • Slice the radishes very thinly using a mandoline, then toss with the olive oil.
  • Slice the fennel bulb very thinly with the mandoline, toss with the lemon juice, and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Mix the radishes, fennel, parsley, dill, and salt together in a bowl. Serve at room temperature.

Buckwheat “far”
Yields 4 servings

5 oz peeled pearl onions
12 oz light olive oil
1.3 oz peeled garic cloves
2 oz buckwheat flour
2 oz flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
0.5 oz sugar
6 oz milk, plus 0.5 oz to brush on the cake
2 eggs
0.1 oz butter

  • Place the onions and olive oil in a small saucepan, cover with a lid, and cook over very low heat for about 1 hour. If the oil starts bubbling too much, turn off the heat for a few minutes. The onions are ready when they look golden-brown and feel fork-tender. Drain the onions and reserve.
  • Return the olive oil to the saucepan, add the garlic, and cook the same way for about 45 minutes. Drain the garlic and reserve. You can keep the flavored olive oil for a couple of days if you want to use it in other recipes.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, mix the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  • Add half of the milk, and beat on medium speed until homogeneous. Add the eggs and the rest of the milk (minus that last 0.5 oz), and mix again until smooth.
  • Incorporate the onions and garlic into the batter with a spatula.
  • Line a 4.5″ x 9″ cake mold with parchment paper, and grease the bottom and sides with the butter. Pour the batter into the mold. Place a dish filled with water on the bottom rack of a 400 F oven, and bake the cake for 25 minutes. Brush the top of the cake with milk, and bake for another 10 minutes or so, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool.

Assembly
Yields about 4 servings

lake trout and crawfish ballotine
buckwheat “far”
fennel, radish and herb salad

  • Take the ballotine out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving.
  • Take the fish out of the sous-vide pouch and plastic film, trim the ends, and cut into 4 slices.
  • Unmold the far, trim the sides, and cut into 4 rectangles. Slice each rectangle, arrange the slices in a fan, and secure with a bamboo skewer.
  • On each plate, place a slice of ballotine, a skewer of far, and some salad. Serve immediately.

Russian Food - Lake Trout and Crawfish Ballotine

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