Viander 78, Chaudumet a becquet/beschet

Fish! It’s season. The rivers are stocked, and the windows can be opened to air out the house. Yay!

The recipe calls for pike or pickerel.
Pike is a river or lake fish also found in some slightly salty situations, but it doesn’t tolerate brackish water well.
It is long and skinny, and can, depending on conditions, have the “muddy” flavor associated with catfish and tilapia.
They grow a couple of feet long, and have two extra lines of bones.

I could not get a pike; though the rivers are stocked, they are a challenge here. I chose whiting instead, as being a suitable mild white fish. Shad would have been another good choice, but the fisheries in my area are depleted of them.

a loaf of wine, a bottle of wine, a bottle of verjus, seasonings, and in a bowl, three little fish.
a short shopping list

One was split and boned, the other two cooked on the bone, for comparison.
I roasted them in salt, as a later recipe made a special note of not salting a fish in a manner suggesting that not to do so was unusual.

three fish on a roasting tray; one boned and split, two cleaned but otherwise intact.
I prefer bone on, but often test sauces on fish cooked a few ways.

For the sauce, I grated stale bread, and added the crumbs, ginger powder, and saffron to the pot of water, and added a little salt.

breadcrumbs, saffron, and seasonings in a pan.
The instructions admonish to sift the crumbs well, in order to have a fine sauce.

Once the pot began to simmer, I added wine and verjus, though I was concerned that the wine would change the color. It really wasn’t an issue.

a small pot with a dark amber sauce, held at an angle to show breadcrumbs settling to the bottom.
It takes a little work to get the crumbs to homogenise well with the sauce, but with attention, it does coalesce.

After roasting, I peeled the fish off of the bones and out of the skins, and placed it in a bowl. There was not an elegant way to do this for such little guys.

On tasting, we agreed that more ginger elevated the sauce and balanced it, but the addition of vinegar unbalanced the sauce somewhat. Readjusting the ginger solved the problem.

The strong saffron and ginger flavor provided a lot of depth and interest to what is often a flavorless fish, and would have enhanced the richness of a pike nicely. It is an attractive color, and is of itself vegetarian, so would be useful as a hot dressing for pressed tofu, or for steamed chicken.

Unfortunately, the sauce does not hold long or well, it begins to set quite quickly. As it comes together easily, it would not be hard to pre-measure dry ingredients for preparation at need, but with the balance of flavors and the tricky nature of the breadcrumb thickening, it might be more of a challenge than wise for a large scale service. If I were to serve it to larger groups, I would use a wide, shallow pan, and have one person doing only that sauce at time of need.

2 cups water
1/2t saffron
1 t powdered ginger
1/2 c fine breadcrumbs. (Italian loaf, staled overnight, grated or whizzed, and sifted)
River-fish fillets, grilled or roasted with nothing but salt.

-needs careful balancing
-sauce can stick and burn in an instant
-uses a fair lot of saffron.
-hidden gluten, need to warn loudly.

– fiddly

– short holding time.
+reasonably common ingredients
+can be adapted to alternate dining needs quickly
+attractive and somewhat unusual color.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *