Baked Pompano with Crabmeat with Virginia-Style Sherry Sauce

Three lashes with a wet (whole wheat) noodle. I haven't blogged in forever. With my new job, I got overwhelmed, but the worst of it was that I got behind with writing about the amazing month-long, weekly Julia Child cooking classes I took at Kitchen Conservatory. Really behind. Then I continued to procrastinate. And it’s snowballed. No blogging. So – a clean slate. And I WILL at least do a summary – soon – from the classes.
Saturday night was “at home” date night. We started with Ginger Parsnip Soup with Bacon-Parmesan Crisps from Southern Living. Parsnips. Really? Craig was a bit skeptical. “You could make this for a dinner party.” An unusual combination of flavors, the slightly sweet, earthy flavor of the parsnips work incredibly well with the fragrance of the ginger. We decided we could have made an entire meal of the bacon-parm crisps, and these certainly can stand on their own for an easy appetizer.

Moving to the entrĂ©e. Albeit an old cookbook, I picked up Larry Forgione’s An American Place last weekend. Beside interesting recipes based on “American” ingredients, it’s simply a great read. Its layout is a bit odd with basically only three sections, “From America’s Shores” (fish), “From Forests and Farms” (meats), and “From America’s Bakeshops” (obvious), I know I will find many more recipes from this winner. An interesting combo of classic Southern ingredients, the sherry works really well with crab, and is out of this world. This is not difficult, may be a bit time-consuming, and beautiful. We served it with a two cheese (mascarpone and Parmesan) polenta and garlic green beans.

Baked Pompano with Crabmeat (modified) with Virginia-Style Sherry Sauce
Serves 4

1 t unsalted butter
6 oz. lump crabmeat (about 3/4 C)
1 t minced shallots
1/2 C plus 2T dry vermouth
1 t cornstarch
1/2 C half & half
1 t basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 C fresh bread crumbs
1/4 C ground yellow corneal
4 6- to 8-oz pompano fillets
2 T finely chopped fresh chives.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the crabmeat and shallots and cook for a few minutes. Raise the heat to medium and add 2 T of vermouth. Simmer for about 1 minute.

Stir the cornstarch into the half & half until smooth and add to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, until thickened. Stir in the herbs and season with S&P. Remove from heat and let cool until temperature.

Combine the bread crumbs and cornmeal in a small bowl.

Season the fillets with S&P. Put a quarter of the coole crabmeat mixture on each fillet and spread evenly over it. Sprinkle the cornmeal mixture over the top of each fillet and gently pat down the crumbs so they adhere to the fish.

Lightly butter a shallow baking dish and carefully lay the pompano, coated sides up, in it. Pour the remaining vermouth into the dish. The liquid should come about halfway up the sides of the fish. Bake the fish for 8 to 10 minutes, until just done. **I had to broil for a few minutes to brown the bread crumbs.

Use a spatula to transfer the fish to serving plates. Spoon the sauce (recipe below) around the fish and sprinkle the cives over the sauce.

Virginia-Style Sherry (or Madeira) Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

3/4 C cream sherry or Madeira
1/4 C diced bacon
2 T minced shallots
1 C chicken stock
5 oz. fish bones (I used what the Whole Fish fishmonger gave me after filleting the pompano)
1 T cornstarch
3/4 C half and half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the wine, bacon, shallots, stock and fish bones in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to about 6 tablespoons; skim off any foam from the surface as the liquid reduces.

Stir the cornstarch into the half and half until smooth, and add to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and lower the heat, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with S&P. Remove all bones and skin pieces from the sauce and keep warm over very low heat.

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