Fancy Fish: My panfried gambas served with leek three ways and an aromatic beurre blanc.
Sometimes you feel all posh and fancy. And that’s alright. In a way every one of us is a little princess… or something like that. It is in moments like these, when a bit of decadence feels just right. My panfried gambas served with leek three ways and an aromatic beurre blanc is decadent. It is also very minimalistic. Leek, gambas, butter and a bit of potato, that’s all this is. But given a bit of thought and time. This dish will make your own dinner-table feel like a three starred restaurant. Be brave and give it a go, even if you fail, this dish will be incredible delicious.
I’m not gonna lie to you. This is a fancy dish. It is effortful and it requires a fair bit of time to do (not more than 40 minutes though). And it might not be more than a super-delicious starter. But it is worth every second of time you sacrifice. I promise you that. I have been watching a few cooking-shows too many lately. Maybe I should have spent my time on studying or doing stuff with people. But you know, it’s Masterchef… it’s hard to refuse Marco Pierre White. For this week’s post I decided to go with something more fancy, more elaborate and more… well “fine dining” if you wish. Because I can. Or, at least because I thought I could. My gambas served with a three ways of leek, drowned in a magically delicious beurre blanc wasn’t a failure. But it also wasn’t as perfect as I thought it would be. My technique is lacking. Not fundamentally, but enough to cause a few issues along the way. Wow, that sounds encouraging, right? I mean after all, I dare to put up a blog.
But truth be told (and a quite evident one, I assume). I’m nowhere near perfect. And that’s alright. I struggle. I burn things. I overcook and I underseason. And that, too, is alright. With every mistake I make, I learn. Luckily photoshop can make pretty much anything look great. So when you find yourself looking at this dish, thinking “I could never pull that off”, then ask yourself… why the hell not? You can’t see this on the picture, but most of the things on this plate are stone-cold. That’s because I tried to cook everything to perfection and took my due time, plating it up. It’s still delicious, but as Marco Pierre White likes to shout at people “Sent something out that’s hot, rather than pretty and cold”. So when you make this at home, then allow yourself a few mistakes on the way. It won’t taste any less delicious, but it will be a lot easier on yourself.
My gambas served with a three way of leek, covered with a beautifully thick beurre blanc needs just a few, very simple elements. Leek, gambas, onion, carrot, butter and potatoes. That’s all it is. But I have not eaten anything quite like it, in a long time. The gambas are just done, juicy and firm. The smokiness of the grilled leek accompanies them perfectly, the soft delicate steamed leak falls apart in your mouth and takes on the aromatic beurre blanc. Although you use plenty of butter with it, this dish is surprisingly light. And it is worth the extra mile.
My panfried gambas served with leek three ways and an aromatic beurre blanc
Gambas in the shell Butter Leek Onion Carrot Salt Potatoes Pepper Cayenne Pepper Lemon Milk Olive Oil
This dish is composed of five elements: pan fried gambas, steamed leek, grilled leek, a leek and potato puree, and a beurre blanc. The beurre blanc needs the longest preparation and should go first (preferably the day before), frying the gambas will take you about 3 minutes, steaming the leak about ten, the sheet of grilled leek about 10 and the puree another 10 minutes. On the day of serving: Peel and boil the potatoes first, then turn to preparing both the leek-sheets for grilling and for making the puree. Fry the gambas last and make sure to warm up your plates, so that nothing cools down, while you are plating. I serve two gambas per person, half a thin stem of leek and about one large potato… it is a starter after all. You could use langoustine or shrimp for this, adjust the cooking-times accordingly.
The sauce: Set up a large pan with boiling water. Blanch the gambas in it for about 30 seconds. Then cool them down in a bowl with cold water. This will help to remove the shell. Over a bowl, peel the gambas (heads off too) and make sure to collect as much of the liquid as you can. Deveine the gambas (that is, remove their intestines by carefully cutting them open and tearing out the black vein) and put them to the side. In a pan, melt butter and add the shells and juices from the peeling. To this add a carrot and half an onion (more gambas = more carrots). Let simmer for about 3 minutes, then add a pint of water (again, more if more gambas). Add salt and allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes. Pass through a sieve and discard of the shells and vegetables. Adjust seasoning if necessary and add a few pinches of cayenne pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer and add a small block of cold butter, let dissolve and add the next block. Continue the careful addition and stirring until your sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (this will require about 125 g of butter, less if your sauce has already reduced a lot, more if you used more water. If you don’t want to add too much butter, mix one of the blocks with half a teaspoon of flour and add to the sauce, this will thicken everything up nicely. You can easily keep the sauce in the fridge for a day or two and gently heat it up, when needed. Add a few drops of lemon juice right before serving.
The gambas: Add a teaspoon of butter to a pan, let it melt gently and add the blanched, peeled and deveined gambas. In the butter, gently warm the gambas, this will take about three minutes. They should just loose their translucency at the core. Pat dry using kitchen paper, season with salt and a few drops of lemon juice.
The sheet of grilled leek: Trim a stem of leek, make a incision on one side and peel of one sheet of leek. Cook in a pot with simmering water until it has become translucent. Pat dry. Right before serving, brush the outer surface (shinier and more colourful) with olive oil and add spread it in a hot griddle pan (if you don’t own one, a normal clean pan will do – you won’t get the nice stripes, though). Allow to take on colour and grill marks, then take it out and brush the grilled side with bit of butter, a few drops of lemon juice and sprinkle over a bit of salt.
The leek and potato puree:Peel and cook the potatoes. Rince them finely. Use the green tips and the remaining leek cores, if you should have any, for the mash (about two hands for one large potato). Cook them in a pot with boiling water until tender. Drain and shake dry. Use a liquidizer to turn them into a puree. Mix this puree with a few tablespoons of milk and heat up in a pan. Add the rinced potato and stir. Season with salt. You want to create a thick mash, add more milk if necessary or allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
The steamed leek: Trim a thin stalk of leave (half a stalk for one person). Slice it length-ways and put it in a steamer or colander over steaming water. Allow to steam for about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Brush with butter, salt and lemon juice.
The plating: Heat up the sauce, if necessary. On a warmed plate, place one grilled sheet of leek. On this, arrange the mash and the gambas. Add the steamed leek and coat with sauce. If you like, peel a parsley root and shave of a few ribbons. Blanch them for half a minute right before serving, dress with a bit of lemon juice and roll them up, for a bit of extra texture. Done. Enjoy it, because this was a lot of work…but you also grew as a person.