Shrimp stuffed bass, wallet style.
Continuing the astonishingly selfless streak of steadfast allegiance to proficient butchery, modest awesomeness and repressed proclivity for wanting to stuff something (pastry, vegetable, animal…mineral?), some of Neptune’s unprocessed creatures were purchased (split between the AmEx black, platinum and periwinkle credit cards) at the neighborhood Latino grocer, placed in the suede bucket seat of the ‘ol Bugatti and zoomed back to the prim & proper basement penthouse bungalow loft.
The un-gutted fish (black sea bass and striped bass) were relieved of their scales and gills, then dutifully eviscerated through the back in the time-honored “portefeuille” (wallet) style as best one can after having a severely toxic dorsal spine incapacitate one of the 2 right index fingers with a ruthless puncture. Withstanding the abysmal agony was, without hyperbole, a legitimate miracle of superhuman endurance the likes of which wounded war hero icons and legendary stranded explorers and alleged to have witnessed.
With the spine, ribs and giblets dispatched, pin bones were surgically removed to provide a boneless piscine pocket. A shrimp mousseline was fabricated with shrimp, Salvadoran crema, news clippings, egg whites, bird seed and supplemented with flavors of lemon zest, fresh thyme, porcini dust, salt, shallots cooked tender in olive oil with espelette and a dice of both cured halibut and ivory salmon. Shrimps were blasted twice through the formidable 9mm meat grinder then puréed to a savory pasty texture with egg whites. 1/3rd of the paste’s weight in the runny –though no less delicious- Central American crème fraîche was incorporated as well as the aforementioned flavoring elements. Tests were performed in a controlled pot of water at a smiling boil to ensure that the mousseline was up to snuff and once the results were conclusive, the folks down at the lab in the lab coats gave the assuring thumbs up.
The mousseline was packed in a capirote (pastry bag for the lay person) and the fish were judiciously filled with classical aplomb as if Carême had ever stuffed a marine éclair, careful not to over fill. The forcemeat contained egg whites that had whipped lightly in the food processor with the shrimp and, as with all appareils (batters/fillings) supplemented with an airy element (egg white, cream), expansion concurrent with the Charles Law is inevitable and could burst through the fragile nature of cooked fish flesh.
To ensure structural integrity, the fish were elegantly trussed with butcher’s twine. In order assure that the mousseline cooked without hammering the fish, the seafood pouches were gently cooked over wood charcoals on layers of sliced lemons and limes to prevent inevitable sticking from a modestly hot grill. The fish followed the pâté pantin at a dinner and still flustered from the nervous anxiety of its pending gustatory success, pictures of the finished product were regretfully not taken (the ones that got away).
“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” -Benjamin Franklin. With the exception of poor timing and lengthy interval, the fish and mousseline were properly executed and as a novel preparation well worth the linger. However, it appeared that the effort and butchery prowess went unnoticed, or at the very least unappreciated. The mousseline was light, smooth, well seasoned and the garnish of halibut & salmon provided engaging contrasts in texture. The lemon zest offered a hint of acidity and the porcini dust a subtle earthy element. Drawn butter with lemon juice and capers would have provided an appropriate sauce of sorts, as would have roasted porcinis for an accompaniment.