A while ago, we were in Fécamp on the Normandy coast. It is not the prettiest coastal town of France, in fact it is rather drab due to its role as a commercial and fishery port in an industrial area. The boats and their owners traded far away and fished the coasts of Newfoundland. Soon the horizon over the sea will be dotted with giant wind energy turbines, just a few miles down from the nuclear power plant. For the moment, I liked passing by from time to time.
The local sports club calls itself proudly ‘the blue collars’ and the most magnificent building in the town, the so-called Benedictine palace, was built by an industrialist who made his fortune selling a liquor based on a recipe created by a Benedictine abbot in the times of French kings.
In the town you find many fish restaurants, among which the small and friendly “Chez Nounoute”.
On the quai I bought some fish, including a nice turbot. It was not very large but still of a decent size.
At home, I prepared a dish using the fish and kale, a winter vegetable long spurned in many kitchens and now undergoing a revival in the United States.
There are many kinds of kale. In the Netherlands we use the “boerenkool” cabbage which is a different kale than the “chou frisée” I used in France for this recipe. In English, the vegetable I used is a curly kale. It is called one of the healthiest vegetables around, with cholesterol lowering properties.
As you may see on the picture, I left the turbot whole.
French recipe books often describe how you need to cut the fins and the tail from the fish before cooking. You also need to put incisions in the skin , so that it will not contract and pull the fish askew.
I learned why these books say so because after I had cooked the fish, the tail broke off and so did parts of the side fins. There are years of experience in cookery books, my only excuse was that I was in a bit of a hurry.
- One turbot
- One small kale
- Three turnips
- One onion
- A winter carrot
- A herb bouquet
- Fish stock
- Prepare the fish, cut off the head and the fins, trim the tail, remove the innards.
- Take the outer leaves from the kale and wash the rest. Slice the cabbage and then cut it in small pieces, removing thick stems. Wash and set aside.
- Peel and slice the turnips, onion and carrot.
- Put the kale in a pan with water and cook for 10 minutes, then drain.
- Make four litres of fish stock, from the fish waste, with a stock cube or powder.
- Preheat an oven at 200 °C. Keep some extra boiled water handy.
- Put the kale at the bottom of a large oven dish with high rims. Add the turnips, onion and carrot.
- Lay the fish on top, bottom down, and cover with hot stock until the fish is covered. If you need more liquid, use the reserve of boiling water.
- Add some salt and pepper and put in the oven.
- Cook for 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the fish, use a needle or fork to pricking into the skin and meat to test the resistance and consistence of the fish. Turbot needs to be cooked beyond soggy to firm, but not turn flakey or dry.
- Take the dish out of the oven. Remove the fish and put aside.
- Take out the vegetables – either drain the liquid in a colander or scoop the vegetables out.
- Arrange the vegetables on the bottom of a serving dish and put the fish on top, either with its skin on or after having removed the skin with fish knife.