Gilt-head bream is such an eye-catcher, and the last one at the market on Friday was begging to be hot smoked writes Sandra Tate…
I’m always eager to try something new and quite honestly I’ve never heard of anyone smoking gilt-head bream – though I’m sure some are as it turned out to be sensational in its delicate, pure white, succulent way. I have a marked preference to smoke fish whole; skin on, head on etc. The flesh then retains its oils and juices and the smoke flavour does not overwhelm the sweetness of the fish.
To Cure & Smoke
For my 700g gilt-head bream I mixed 50g sea salt with 25g natural sugar and rubbed the fish inside and out – leaving it in a stainless steel bowl for half an hour. I set up the Bradley Smoker with plenty of Alder bisquettes in the stack, and the cabinet temperature to 110°C/220°F. Rinse the fish thoroughly and pat dry with kitchen towel, inside and out. Set on a wire rack, transfer to the Bradley and smoke for 2 hours, by which time the fish is completely gold and perfectly hot smoked! Allow to cool completely before covering and refrigerating.
Lift the skin from the gilt-head bream and carefully remove flakes of fish from the bones onto a dish, set aside, cover and allow to come to room temperature.
Peel & finely chop a large shallot and a large clove of garlic and add to a large sauté pan with 40g butter – cook very gently for 3 minutes until softened but not coloured, now add 300g risotto rice and stir to coat with butter. Turn up the heat and add 250ml white wine, stirring gently until absorbed by the rice. Once absorbed begin to add a good fish stock, a ladle at a time, until the rice is almost tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a large handful of young spinach leaves and 4 chopped, ripe, fresh tomatoes. Continue to stir and as soon as the spinach wilts, remove from the heat and keep warm.
Clean a dozen large scallops and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet to smoking hot, throw in 25g butter and as soon as it melts and foams place the scallops one by one into the butter – once all have been carefully placed it is time to turn them one at a time. They should be golden, and have had no more than a minute’s cooking on each side.
Divide the risotto between warmed bowls and top with the scallops and a scattering of flakes of hot smoked bream. Serve with lemon wedges.