Springtime trip to Paris inspires recipe for Choucroute de la mer et son beurre Nantais

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By: Rachel Shenk

The sun finally pokes through the clouds as we make our daily run. Spring sure is a teaser. In my yard, I see shoots poking though bare earth, and at the park, some woodland plants are already flowering. But the thermometer’s continuous fluctuation keeps me off balance. Is it or isn’t it here yet?

Only a week ago, we were still in Paris, where spring was ensconced. The cherry trees by the Eiffel Tower were in bloom, and in the city parks, the grass was green and the flowers, both annual and perennial, were already showing their various bright colors.

In the neighborhood where we were staying, folks were sitting outside for coffee and drinks. We followed suit and watched the world go by.

One day for lunch, we walked around the corner and onto a quiet street to find Le Sévigné, the little restaurant where we had eaten on other visits. Sitting on the corner of two streets and across from a little park, it is a very neighborly place with no pretensions.

As we opened the door, the owner and his help greeted us warmly, inviting us to take a table in the back room. Philippe, as we find out the owner is called, brought us menus and suggested the special of the day, Choucroute de la mer (Sauerkraut of the sea).

We felt welcomed, and I was intrigued by the fish dish, especially after overhearing another table rave about it. When Philippe came to take our order, our lunch turned into a dinner. We added two glasses of red wine despite his suggestion of white to go with the fish. He was surprised, called us brave and laughed, but rolled with it.

Then came the food. When I took that first bite, I was surprised by an unexpected explosion of flavors! The sauerkraut with the fish and its complementary butter wine sauce made my taste buds sing.

Philippe was happy that we were happy. Meanwhile, the whole place was humming nicely with customers and friendly service. We took our time and topped our meal off with espresso. On the way out, we thanked Philippe for the delicious meal. I mentioned that I might write this column about it, and he was OK with that.

As we walked away, he shouted out, “And it’s perfectly fine to have red wine with fish!” A couple of days later, when we stopped in for an afternoon break, he recited our past order and included, “And two glasses of red wine!” We all laughed.

Now that we are back on this side of the pond, we decide to recreate his version of Choucroute de la mer for our anniversary. Our house doesn’t quite have the feel of a Parisian café, but this dish takes us right back. And, this time, we do pour ourselves two glasses of white wine and make a toast to Philippe.

Choucroute de la mer et son beurre Nantais
(Sauerkraut from the sea with Nantais butter)

Ingredients

  • 1 large jar of old fashioned sauerkraut
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 perch filets
  • 4 salmon filets
  • 12 large shrimp with tails, cooked
  • ⅓ cup white wine
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 6 tbsp. cream
  • 1 cup butter, cold, cut into small chunks

Directions

  1. Drain and rinse the sauerkraut. Put in a sauce pan with the wine and spices. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the fish and shrimp in a frying pan for two minutes on each side.
  3. Form the sauerkraut into four mounds in a baking dish. Cover each mound with the fish filets. Add the shrimp on the top. Bake in the oven for an additional 10 minutes or until the fish flakes.
  4. For the sauce, put the shallots and the wine in a pan and cook until only 2 tablespoons of wine remains. Add the lemon juice and cook a bit more. Add the cream and cook for two more minutes.
  5. Slowly add the cold butter, three chunks at a time, whisking continuously. Keep adding the butter in threes before the previous have totally melted. This should make a smooth and creamy sauce.
  6. Remove and put through a sieve. Keep warm. Dish the sauerkraut mounds onto four plates. Pour the sauce over each serving.

 

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