Yellow Perch Cutlets, Artichoke Varenyky and Morel Sauce

So spring is here (sort of — it was still 35 F in upstate New York yesterday). While I still have dozens of yellow perch from a recent ice fishing trip, I’m starting to see spring vegetables here and there. As the freezer must be emptied and the vegetables consumed in the name of seasonality, I wanted to create a dish to celebrate the transition from winter to spring.

Yellow Perch Cutlets, Artichoke Varenyky and Morel Sauce

Yellow perch, as good as they taste, have one major drawback: they contain a lot of bones. No matter how hard you try to remove them all, you’re bound to miss a few. With this recipe, we solve the problem by processing the fish in a blender. Fillet and skin the fish, remove the most visible bones, and you’re done! The ingredients, process, and resultant texture for these cutlets actually make them quite similar to French boudin blanc.

Morels and artichokes are both quintessential spring vegetables, and they’re also personal favorites of mine. Morels taste great in sauces, into which they impart their characteristic flavor. For the artichokes, I took inspiration from my days at Danube to create fried varenyky. I’ve already dedicated an entire post to varenyky, so this is another variation to add to that repertoire. On the other hand, leeks, though available year-round in supermarkets, are really in season from fall to early spring, making them perfect for my little winter/spring gimmick. And they taste great with artichoke.

Yellow perch cutlet log
Yields about 4 servings

1.5 oz leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
1.2 oz butter
3 oz heavy cream
2.2 oz eggs
0.25 oz salt
0.25 oz sugar
8.7 oz cleaned yellow perch fillets, coarsely chopped

  • In a pan over medium heat, sauté the leeks in the butter until soft.
  • Transfer to a blender, add the heavy cream, and purée.
  • Add the eggs, salt, sugar, and perch fillets, and process until smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture to a sheet of plastic film, shape into a 3″ long log (3″ to 3.5″ in diameter), and wrap very tightly. Firm in the freezer for 2 hours.
  • Place the log into a sous-vide pouch, and cook in a 155 F water bath for 1 hour, then reserve. The fish log can be prepared one day in advance, and refrigerated.

Yellow Perch Cutlets, Artichoke Varenyky and Morel Sauce

Pasta dough
Yields about 4 servings

4 oz flour, sifted (sometimes slightly more — see below)
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp olive oil

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, place half of the flour, plus the salt, egg, egg yolk, and olive oil. Mix on low speed until homogeneous, scraping down the sides with a spatula. Add the rest of the flour and mix again until it forms a smooth paste.
  • Transfer to a floured surface, and knead with your hands for about 3 minutes. If necessary, add a little bit more flour until the dough doesn’t stick. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

Artichoke filling
Yields slighlty over 4 servings

2 artichokes
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 oz olive oil
salt
black pepper, ground
2 oz cup white wine
2 oz chicken stock
2 oz cup heavy cream
1.3 oz leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
0.15 oz (slightly over 1 tbsp) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • Turn the artichokes, keeping only the hearts and peeled stems in water with lemon juice. (I ended up with 5.3 oz of cleaned artichokes.)
  • Thinly slice the artichokes, and sauté in a pan over medium heat with about 2/3 of the olive oil. Cook until tender, without coloring.
  • Season with salt and pepper, add the white wine, then cook until almost entirely reduced.
  • Add the chicken stock and heavy cream, and simmer for a couple minutes.
  • Strain the artichokes, and reserve the cream.
  • In a pan over medium heat, sauté the leeks in the rest of the olive oil. Season with salt, and cook until soft, without coloring.
  • Add the cream from the artichokes, and simmer for 1 minute.
  • Process the leeks, cream, and half of the artichokes in a blender until smooth.
  • Cut the rest of the artichokes into a brunoise and mix with the leek and artichoke purée, and the parsley. Rectify the seasoning — the mixture should be well seasoned. Refrigerate.

Artichoke Varenyky
Yields about 4 servings (16 varenyky)

pasta dough
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp water
artichoke filling
semolina (see below)
0.4 oz butter

  • Using a pasta machine, roll the dough to the finest setting. I recommend proceeding in batches (cut the dough into 2 or 4 pieces) so that the pasta doesn’t dry out.
  • Mix the egg yolk and water to make an egg wash.
  • Cut 16 discs using a 3 1/2″ cutter. Brush each disc with the egg wash, place a spoonful of filling in the center, then fold into half-moon shapes and seal the edges with your fingers. Each one should have a generous amount of filling, but not so much that it’s difficult to seal properly. Keep the varenyky on a sheet tray dusted with semolina.
  • Cook the varenyky in a large pot of boiling salted water until soft. Drain, toss into a bowl with the butter, and reserve.

Yellow Perch Cutlets, Artichoke Varenyky and Morel SauceMorel sauce
Yields 4 servings

5.3 oz cleaned morels
1 oz butter
1.3 oz dry white wine
2.7 oz chicken stock
4 oz heavy cream
salt
black pepper, ground
morel powder (optional)

  • Soak the morels in warm water for about 10 minutes. Change the water, and repeat. Morels can be very gritty, hence the need to rinse them thoroughly.
  • In a pan over medium heat, sauté the drained morels in butter. Add the white wine and chicken stock, then simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add the heavy cream, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for a couple minutes. Remove from the heat, and reserve.
  • Fresh morels can exhibit various degrees of the canonical morel flavor. If yours are at all lacking, you can mix in some morel powder to compensate.

Sautéed leeks
Yields 4 servings

3 oz cleaned leeks, white part only, sliced
1 oz butter

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the leaks in the butter. Cover with a lid, and cook over low heat until very soft.

Assembly
Yields 4 servings

yellow perch cutlet log
4 slices rye bread
0.6 oz butter
1 oz olive oil
morel sauce
sautéed leeks
0.25 oz (about 2 tbsp) chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • Take the yellow perch log out of the sous-vide pouch and the plastic wrap, and cut into 4 slices (each about 3/4″ thick).
  • Trim the bread slices to match the size of the fish cutlets. In a nonstick skillet, color the bread in butter until brown on both sides. Reserve.
  • In a pan over medium heat, sauté the fish cutlets in half of the olive oil until brown on both sides. Remove from the pan, and reserve.
  • In the same pan, sauté the varenyky in the rest of the olive oil until lightly colored. Drain on paper towels.
  • Reheat the morel sauce and sautéed leeks.
  • On each plate, arrange a fish cutlet on a slice of bread. Cover with morel sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Garnish with 4 varenyky topped with sautéed leeks.
    Serve immediately.

Yellow Perch Cutlets, Artichoke Varenyky and Morel Sauce

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