Pike Dumplings and Carp Laitance with Sauce Nantua
For American diners, this dish is highly unusual; for French diners, it is a rare delicacy. During spawning season, the male pike’s internal organs enlarge. Chef Lacombe dresses out a whole pike and reserves these delicacies, sauteing them to a golden brown in butter as a side dish. Fishmongers can save these parts for you — in season — and Chef Lacombe says they freeze well. The remainder of this dish, the poached pike dumplings, or quenelles, with classic Sauce Nantua, may be made without the side dish any time of year.
- Pike Dumplings
- Pike Fillets - 1 pound
- Egg - 1
- Egg White - 1
- A few grindings of fresh nutmeg
- Unsalted Butter - 2 tablespoons, softened
- Light Cream - 1 cup
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Sauce Nantua
- Whole Crayfish - 1 pound, large
- Olive Oil - 1/4 cup
- Carrot - 1, chopped
- Onion - 1, chopped
- Shallots - 2, chopped
- Thyme - 1 sprig, finely chopped
- Bay Leaf - 1
- Tomato paste - 1 tablespoon
- Cognac - 1/2 cup
- Light Cream - heavy (whipping) cream
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1 cup
- Chicken Stock (see Cooking Basics) - 1 quart
- Carp Laitance
- Carp Laitance (male organs) - 1/2 pound
- Clarified Butter (see Cooking Basics) - 1/4 cup
- Chicken Stock (see Cooking Basics) - 1/4 cup
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Chervil - 5 sprigs
To prepare the quenelle mixture: Place the fish fillets in a food processor and process until smooth. Press through a tamis or fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice. Using a spatula, stir the egg, egg white, and ground nutmeg into the ground fish. Fold in the butter and half of the light cream. When thoroughly mixed, fold in the remaining light cream. Season with salt and pepper. The consistency will be like a very thick batter. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator.
To make the Sauce Nantua: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the crayfish; cook for 1 minute. Remove and drain well. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat and add the crayfish. Cook, turning occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Drain the crayfish on paper towels. Twist the tails from the bodies. Reserve the four largest bodies with claws. Shell the tails and set aside. Add the carrot, onion, shallot, thyme and bay leaf to the saute pan and saute over medium heat until they just start to color. Add the remaining crayfish bodies and the tomato paste and stir to mix. Add the Cognac, avert your face, and ignite with a long match. Shake the pan until the flames die down. Add the light cream; it should almost cover the crayfish. Reduce the heat to low; cook for 1 hour. Remove from heat. Crush the crayfish shells in the pan with a heavy object. Stir the mixture, then put in the bowl of a processor and pulse 6 or 8 times. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Stir in the heavy cream and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
To cook the pike dumplings (quenelles): Put the chicken stock in a large saucepan or deep skillet and bring almost to a boil; there will be small bubbles at the bottom, but no breaking bubbles on the surface. Remove the quenelle mixture from the refrigerator. Using two large spoons, form 12 large quenelles from the mixture, pushing them off the spoons into the simmering stock as they are formed. Poach 10 to 12 minutes, turning them three-quarters of the way through the cooking process to poach all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon.
To cook the laitance: Dust the laitance lightly with flour on all surfaces. Heat the clarified butter in a medium saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat and add the laitance. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook until brown on all sides and cooked through. Stir in the chicken stock and cook 1 minute. Remove laitance and drain on paper towels; season with salt and pepper.
To serve: Warm the crayfish tails and heads. Preheat the broiler to high. Arrange three pike dumplings (quenelles) on each heatproof plate in a radial pattern, touching at the centers of the plates. Place three crayfish tails in the center of each. Spoon Sauce Nantua around and over the pike dumplings and crayfish tails. Place under the broiler until lightly browned. Remove and garnish each with one of the reserved crayfish bodies and a sprig of chervil. Divide the carp laitance among four small separate dishes and garnish with a bit of chervil.