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Posted on Dec 13, 2012 in
Sculpin/Leek and Bacon Sauerkraut
by Steve Black

One of the things I liked best during my time in France was that the size of a fish did not matter to them, and the French were very skilled in eating fish that have bones, something that is taboo in the United States. We used to serve the standard cod (cabillaud), monkfish (lotte) and salmon, but we also served some small fish like rouge, which was a tiny red-snapper-type fish the size of a large sardine.

One of my favorites that I was introduced to was sculpin, which is a member of the stonefish family and has a coating of slime so the fish needed to be handled with care. Sculpin are not large fish, but provide beautiful, white fillets -- and if a French bouillabaisse was to be authentic, it would've had to have contained some sculpin from which to make the broth base.

During the summer months, we used to serve the following menu, using quick-seared sculpin fillets served on top of a bed of traditional alcacienne choucroute (sauerkraut), roasted potatoes and a lemon-parsley butter. It would sell “out the door.” Give it a try. This recipe, which has four parts, serves four.

INGREDIENTS (Part 1, for the fish)
1.5 pounds of sculpin fillets, pin bones removed
1 TBSP seasoning salt mix (your favorite brand)
½ cup canola oil

INSTRUCTIONS:
* Drizzle some oil on the fillets and season all sides with your seasoning salt, then hold in the fridge. You will use the remaining oil to cook with later.

******

INGREDIENTS (Part 2, for the sauerkraut)
1 pound sauerkraut, drained and lightly rinsed
1 leek, sliced thin and rinsed free of dirt
4 slices of thick bacon, large-diced
10 juniper berries (it’s OK if you don’t have these)
½ cup Chardonnay
2 ounces sweet butter
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:
* Key Tip -- You need to rinse the sauerkraut to reduce the sourness from the vinegar that cured it, but you don’t want to rinse all the vinegar flavoring out.
* Heat up a non-stick pan to medium-high. Cook the bacon with the butter for 5 minutes or so, until the bacon is halfway done. (I do not like totally cooked, dried-up bacon, but cook it how you like.)
* When the bacon hits your halfway mark, add the leeks, juniper berries, white wine and sauerkraut. Turn the heat down to medium and let simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want to cook out most of the liquid. Taste while it is simmering and adjust the seasoning to your liking. It is easy with this dish to over-salt, so pay attention to how much you rinse the sauerkraut and the balance of the salt that the bacon will add.
* When the sauerkraut liquid has cooked off, again check the seasoning and then turn off the heat and hold covered on the side.

******

INGREDIENTS (Part 3, for the roasted potatoes)
1 pound fingerling potatoes, or any small-size potato
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1 TBSP seasoning salt mix (your favorite brand)
1 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and chives
2 ounces extra virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:
* Mix the potatoes with all of the ingredients in a bowl. Place on a roasting pan and roast in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until the potatoes are softened. Hold warm for service.

******

INGREDIENTS (Part 4, for the lemon/parsley butter)
6 ounces sweet butter
½ bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
1 lemon, juiced, seeds removed in small side bowl
Sugar pinch
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:
* Simply melt down the butter then add the chopped parsley, lemon juice, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper.
* As the sauerkraut is finishing (it will take about an hour from start to finish), you can heat up a non-stick pan on medium-high, add in canola oil, take your seasoned sculpin fillets from the fridge and sear them off, which will only take a few minutes.
* Line up your plates and portion out the sauerkraut, surround with the roasted potatoes, top with the sculpin and spoon on the lemon butter. Enjoy!

*****

About the Chef — Steve Black attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, and began his hotel career at the Sheraton Boston Hotel & Towers in 1984. In 1990, Chef Black traveled abroad to Strasbourg, France, where he had the opportunity to work with several 5-Star Michelin Chefs. Returning to the U.S. in 1992, he moved to San Diego, California, and joined the culinary teams at the La Costa Resort & Spa and at the Hyatt La Jolla Aventine. In 1993, he became the Executive Chef at the Sheraton Hotel & Marina on Harbor Island. During his off time, Steve fishes the offshore waters from San Clemente Island down to Ensenada and everywhere in between from his 25-foot Boston Whaler Revenge.