Roasted Pompano and Red Bean Ragout
Pompano is one of the most delicious members of the Jack family of saltwater fish,which includes amberjack, permit, and yellowtail. It ranges in size from 1 to 3 pounds and has firm, sweet flesh. In this presentation Chef Susser bakes the whole pompano--which has been larded with thyme sprigs, in ale and serves it on a bed of delicious red bean-pumpkin stew. The chef scatters whole allspice berries in the baking pan; however, the home cook will find it less labor-intensive at serving time to tie the allspice in a cheesecloth pouch. The finishing touch is a mango-chile salsa with fresh pan-toasted cashews.
- Pompanos - four, 1 to 1-1/2 pound, scaled, head and tail on
- Fresh thyme sprigs - 24
- Celery Stalk - 8, trimmed, diced
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1/3 cup
- Extra olive oil - for brushing
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Whole allspice berries - 1 tablespoon, tied in cheesecloth
- Bottle of ale - one, 12-ounce
- Red Bean Ragout - (recipe follows)
- Mango-Chile Salsa - (recipe follows)
- Red Bean Ragout (Makes about 4 cups)
- Pancetta - 1/4 pound, diced
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 2 to 3 tablespoons
- Calabaza or Butternut Squash - 2 cups, cubed
- Garlic Clove - 1, minced
- Ripe Tomatoes - 2 medium, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped (see Cooking Basics)
- Red Beans - 1-1/2 cups, cooked, or 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed, drained
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Mango-Chile Salsa
- Ripe Mango - 1 ripe, peeled, seeded, diced (see Cooking Basics)
- Lime - juice of 1 lime
- Anaheim chile - 1/2, seeded, minced
- Cilantro - 1/4 cup, chopped
- Green Onion - 1/4 cup, chopped
- Pinch of salt
- Sugar - 1 to 2 teaspoons
- Unsalted Cashews - 1/2 cup, toasted in a dry skillet (see Cooking Basics)
Rinse and dry pompanos. With a sharp knife, score each fish on each side in three places starting directly behind the gills. Tuck one thyme sprig in each cut.
In a large stainless steel roasting pan, at least 12x-16 inches, add 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Heat over two burners on the range top until celery is translucent but not browned, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper pompano to taste. Place fish head to tail horizontally in roasting pan. Brush tops lightly with olive oil. Place cheesecloth bag of allspice berries in the center of the pan. Pour in ale. Bake in a preheated 425 F oven until fish is cooked through, about 35 minutes, basting occasionally. Test for doneness by flaking fish at thickest point with a fork.
Meanwhile, prepare Red Bean Ragout and Mango-Chile Salsa.
To serve: Divide bean ragout equally and spoon onto each of four large warmed dinner plates or oval platters. Place one roasted pompano on top. Top with mango salsa. Serve immediately.
Red Bean Ragout
Available in Italian grocery stores and in the deli case at many supermarkets, the pancetta called for is a cured but not smoked Italian bacon made from the belly (pancia) of the pig that comes in two forms. Pancetta stesa is shaped flat like bacon. Pancetta arrotolata is rolled like a large sausage. Chef Susser uses arrotolata, but either kind may be used. The chef stews his own red beans, but canned kidney beans are a respectable substitute in his highly flavored sauce. The calabaza, sometimes called pumpkin, is a squash familiar in the Caribbean, and ranges from cantaloupe- to watermelon-size. Larger calabaza are often sold in chunks in Latin American markets. Butternut squash is an excellent substitute.
In large saute pan over medium heat, saute diced pancetta in olive oil until the bacon's fat is rendered. Add squash, stirring to mix, and cook, covered, until squash is tender but not mushy, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring. Add tomatoes, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add red beans and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and lowering heat, if necessary to prevent burning. If liquid evaporates too quickly, cover pan, or add a little chicken stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off heat. Cover; keep warm.
The mild, green, long and narrow Anaheim chile is one of the most widely available. It has a sweet flavor and just a bit of heat, which makes it perfect for this salsa. Be sure to purchase unsalted cashews.
Combine all ingredients in a small non-reactive bowl, stirring to mix.