For someone who frequents super markets just to get an eyeful of the day’s fresh fish, it is a wonder why this post didn’t come sooner.
I love eating fish, and I love making it. When cooked to fluffy perfection and coupled with the right richness of sauce, you might just pick up on the faint and distant sound of heavenly harps and violins.
For those fish and or brunch lovers among you, today is a lucky one. Catfish, popularly eaten in parts of Africa, is on the menu, and to up its brunch appeal I’ve paired it with poached eggs and one of my all-time favorite sauces – beurre blanc. To play up the African heat factor for this classically French butter sauce, I infused some hot habanero peppers for a subtle spicy kick. Then last, but certainly not least, I served all this goodness atop strips of sweet oven baked plantain (couldn’t bring myself to fry them after all that butter). Here’s the recipe:
Yields 2 Servings
2 fresh eggs
White vinegar, to taste
Ice bath (water and ice)
1 ripe sweet plantain
Oil, as needed
Salt, to taste
Spicy Beurre Blanc
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 habanero or scotch bonnet pepper, thinly sliced
2-4 thyme springs
1 cup white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
150g cold butter, cubed
Lemon juice, to taste (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1lb catfish fillet cut to two pieces, roughly 230g each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
2 pinches thyme
Oil, as needed
10g white wine (optional)
Cayenne pepper, as needed (optional)
1. Fill a deep saucepan about halfway with water (about 3-4 inches). Add enough vinegar to be able to faintly taste in the water (roughly 2-3 tbs).
2. Heat saucepan on stove until right before water starts to boil – you’ll begin to see bubbles forming at the bottom of the pan. Lower heat and crack eggs into a bowl – one at a time or in separate bowls – before gently sliding them into the water. (May help to create a well by whisking water in center before dropping egg into center of well.)
3. For a runny yolk, cook for 2 to 2 ½ minutes. Remove and place in ice bath to stop cooking and refrigerate until ready to plate.
4. In a wide saucepan, cook shallots in about 1 tbs butter over medium heat – do not brown shallots. When translucent add pepper, thyme and wine. Increase to medium-high heat and let wine reduce slightly before adding cream. Continue to reduce liquid until most of it has evaporated, but about ¼ cup should still remain. **Note: Below photo has no liquid added yet**
5. Reduce heat to low temp and once temperature of sauce is not too hot, slowly begin whisking in cold cubes of butter a bit at a time. This must be done on and off the heat (with more time off heat than on) to prevent sauce from getting too hot and breaking.
6. Once all butter is incorporated, check seasoning and add salt, pepper and lemon juice (if using) if needed. Using a sieve, strain sauce into a container and keep warm by holding container in small pot of poaching water. (Constantly check that sauce doesn’t get too hot or it will break.)
7.Heat a deep saucepan with water to prepare for poached eggs.
8. Heat oven to 204°C (400°F). Peel plantain, cut in half and thinly slice into just under ¼ inch thick slices. Oil and salt strips and place on an oiled oven tray. Bake in oven for 5 minutes (set timer! Plantain will turn to hard chips if left too long).
9. While plantain bakes, place a pan with oil to coat over high heat. Season catfish fillets with salt, pepper and thyme and sear in hot pan. After about a minute, lower to medium-high heat and cook until lightly browned
10. While fish browns, remove poached eggs from fridge and let reheat in heated water for 1 minute. Remove and let dry off in paper towel.
11. Flip catfish fillets to cook other side. If fillet is thick, lower to medium-low heat, add wine (if using) and cover pan to steam a little. Otherwise, sear over medium-high heat until just cooked. Remove from pan once cooked (thinner fillet will be be cooked in about 3 minutes. Larger fillet will require and extra 1-2 minutes.
12. Remove plantain from oven and plate 3-4 strips in center of plate. Top with catfish, poached egg and warm beurre blanc. Garnish with parsley, sprinkle with cayenne pepper (if using) and serve.