The Cookbook Collector: The River Cottage Fish Book + Crab Bread and Butter Pudding

March 30, 2012

Fish- a complicated subject that mystifies and intimates many cooks. If you are one of those people who are perplexed by fish preparation,  The River Cottage Fish Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher may be the answer.  Don't be deceived by homey title, the cookbook is a definitive reference "for all manner of fish and shellfish."  It contains 135 recipes that explore different fish preparation methods from the most common, like poaching and frying, to the unexpected such as smoking and open fire cooking.  The reader will be able to create dishes like succulent whole steam-baked plaice and crisp fish bubble and squeak, for example.  In addition to providing detailed instructions on fish cookery, this comprehensive guide delves into the ecological and sustainability issues surrounding fishing as well as a reference section that educates the reader on several varieties of fish and shellfish. The River Cottage Fish Book is a testament to Fearnley-Whittingstall  and Fisher's passion for fish and their determination to preserve this precious resource.

Crab Bread and Butter Pudding 
Serves 6

1/2 cup (125 g) unsalted butter, softened
10 ounces (300 g) fresh-picked crab meat
A good pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, chervil, and chives
A squeeze of lemon juice
A day-old white baguette, cut into slices 3/4 inch (1.5 to 2 cm) thick
4 eggs
1 cup (250 ml) milk
1 cup (250 ml) half-and-half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Use some of the butter to grease a medium gratin dish generously. Combine the crabmeat with the cayenne, mixed herbs, and lemon juice, and season well.

Generously butter the baguette slices. One good approach is to construct two giant, multidecker, Scooby Snack–style crab sandwiches, which will lie side-by-side in the gratin dish. Start with a buttered slice of baguette. Cover it with crab mixture. Add a second slice of bread, some more crab, then another piece of bread. Keep going till you have a sandwich long enough to fit the dish.

Place the sandwich in the dish on its side and then make a second one to lay beside the first. Use the remaining bread slices and filling to make smaller sandwiches to fit around the edge of the dish and fill any gaps.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and cream and season well to make a savory custard. Pour this mixture all over the crab and bread and let soak for at
least 10 minutes. Then bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the custard is set and golden.

Serve warm, rather than hot, with something slightly bitter on the side, such as a salad of white chicory, radicchio, arugula, or watercress with a citrus dressing – this helps cut the richness.

Reprinted with permission from The River Cottage Fish Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall & Nick Fisher, copyright (c) 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photo credit: Simon Wheeler (c) 2012

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