Friday, 11 November 2011

Do the saumonette rock

The Thursday market in Le Grand Pressigny has a new fish stall - infinitely superior to the old one. No mégots behind the counter - "a little fagash with your fish sir?", I don't think so! The fish on the new stall looks very fresh, with bright eyes and a pleasant smell. The stallholders are apparently based in Normandy, but they are running at least four weekly markets in Touraine and Tim thinks they are using local facilities as a pick-up point for freshly-caught fish. Some of the produce that caught my eye were organic salmon, a large monkfish and an even larger whole cod, about a metre long. They had a good queue of customers last Thursday, so we thought "Friday - fish!" and joined the queue.

A popular choice was saumonette, which had a long cylindrical pink-and-white banded body devoid of skin. This was being sliced into steaks rather like salmon, but it was clearly a cartiliginous fish such as dogfish. Rock Salmon! That takes me back to my childhood when the chippie in Yardley served "rock". So rare was the treat of a chippie meal that I have no memory of what rock salmon tasted like, but Tim remembers it as tough. Well, overcooked fish is tough, and frozen fish can be tough too. It looked good, and at 14.95 a kilo was just over half the price of the salmon, so we bought a couple of steaks on the spot.

Once at home we googled our new purchase, and had our ideas confirmed. Wikipedia defines saumonette as the commercial name used in France for a number of small species of shark and dogfish, once anything that might put the prospective purchaser in mind of Jaws, such as the head, tail and skin, has been removed. Because of the size of the 'body' Tim suspects that the fishmongers' specimens may have been of the species known to fishermen in the British isles as "tope".

Google suggested a few recipes, all very simple. As we have a basket of late tomatoes ripening in the kitchen, a simple tomato sauce seemed ideal. I softened a chopped small onion in a little olive oil, then tipped in a small bowl of chopped tomatoes and a couple of garlic cloves, minced. Lid on the pan, cook for about twenty minutes until nicely mushy, then stir vigorously. You could skin the tomatoes, you could blitz the sauce, but I like a chunky sauce, so that I can taste the fish or whatever. Saumonette steaks into pan on top of simmering sauce, lid back on, cook on low with heat diffuser mat to steam for fifteen minutes turning once. I served them with pak choi and plain boiled potatoes. Saumonette has two new fans! Delicately flavoured, meaty, tender flesh and no waste except for the central bone. That's definitely coming again! I suspect it might make good kebabs....


Susan said...

I like saumonette too. It's good mixed with other seafood in a stew, making good flavoursome economically priced bulk.

Jean said...

This looks lovely.
I'm so glad the fish stall on the market has changed hands. The fish always looked rather tired and unappetizing - we never bought any there and Mme André said it was disgusting !!

Tim said...

Pauline has just said that using it to bulk a fish stew out sounds a good idea... and yes Jean, it was lovely!