John Dory with Eggplant
Saffron-rubbed, sauteed fish fillets are stacked with butterflied shrimp into a zig-zag tower on top of eggplant caviar. Tourneed potatoes with crisp eggplant discs complete the presentation.
- Eggplant Caviar
- Olive Oil - 2 tablespoons
- Eggplant - 2
- Garlic Cloves - 4, crushed
- Basil leaves - 4
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Basil Sauce
- Basil - 2 bunches
- John Dory (St.-Pierre) fillets - 6 small (alt. firm, white-fleshed fish fillets)
- Saffron Threads - 6 to 8, pulled apart
- Shrimp - 6
- Potatoes - 2 large
- Eggplant - 1 small
- Peanut oil for deep-frying
- Unsalted Butter - 4 tablespoons
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - 2 tablespoons
To prepare the eggplant caviar: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly drizzle a little of the olive oil over a small baking sheet. Cut the eggplants in half and place two halves, cut-side up, on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the cut surface with garlic and lay 2 basil leaves on each. Close with the remaining eggplant halves, like a sandwich. Drizzle the eggplant with the remaining olive oil. Bake 20 minutes, until the eggplants are soft throughout. Remove from the oven and take out the garlic and basil. Scrape the pulp from the skin and mash. Place in a casserole dish and cover with foil. Keep warm.
To make the sauce: Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and dip the basil in the water for 5 seconds, then place the basil in a bowl of ice water. Drain the basil and pat dry with paper towels. Place in the bowl of a processor and process with 2 to 4 tablespoons cool water to create basil puree. Put in a squeeze bottle and set aside.
To prepare the fish and shrimp: Rub the fish with the saffron; it will lend both color and taste. Set aside. Clean the shrimp, removing the heads, shells, tail shells, and back strip. Cut the shrimp almost all the way through, following the back strip groove, and open out (butterfly). Rub with saffron. Set aside.
To prepare the garnishes: Peel the potatoes. Trim the potatoes into 6 football shapes with blunt ends ("tournee" the potatoes). Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook about 6 minutes, until just tender. Remove, plunge into ice water to stop the cooking, drain, and set aside; keep warm.
Cut the small eggplant into very thin crosswise circles. Sprinkle lightly with salt and let stand for 5 minutes; rinse and pat dry on paper towels. Heat the peanut oil to 365 F in a deep-fryer or deep saucepan. Fry the eggplant slices until they float to the top and are very crisp. Remove with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Lightly salt the slices.
To finish: Rewarm the eggplant caviar and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; keep hot. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan or saute pan and heat the potatoes in the butter. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining butter in a medium saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat and sear the fish fillets for 2 minutes on the skin side. Turn and sear 30 seconds on the flesh side, until opaque throughout; remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Add the shrimp and cook 1 minute on each side, until opaque. Drain on paper towels. If necessary, cook the fish and shrimp in batches; do not crowd the pan.
To serve: Place a 5-inch ring mold in the center of each serving plate and fill 1/2 inch deep with eggplant caviar; pack down with the back of a spoon. Lift the rings. Working with one plate at a time, place a piece of fish on top of the eggplant caviar. Place a shrimp near one end of the fish and lean another slice of fish on top. Place another shrimp at the opposite end of this next piece of fish, and top with another piece of fish. Place a third shrimp on the top fillet at the opposite end, over the first shrimp. The result will be an alternating zig-zag tower of fish and shrimp. Repeat on the other plate. Draw a ribbon of basil puree around each eggplant caviar ring. Place 3 potato ovals around each; cut a slit in each potato and stand an eggplant chip in the slit. Drizzle olive oil over each dish to add shine.