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Poisson entier braise au Porto
12 Servings

6 tablespoons butter, in a 2 to 3 quart saucepan
2 cups onions, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 bouquet garni, made from 8 parsley sprigs, 2 bay leaves and 1/2 teaspoon
8 pounds fresh salmon, center cut
salad oil
salt and pepper

1 750 ml. bottle white wine
1 cup clam juice

1/4 cup dry Port wine
3 tablespoons cornstarch, in a 4 to 6-cup bowl
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced, sauteed in 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
2 tablespoons parsley, finely minced
4 tablespoons butter, softened (optional)

Melt the butter, stir in the sliced vegetables, add the herb bouquet
garni, cover the pan, and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until
vegetables are tender but not browned, 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile,
wash and dry the fish, brush outside with salad oil, and sprinkle
inside with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of pepper.
Place cheesecloth under rack in roaster (or roasting pan), and lay
fish on rack. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. When vegetables
are tender, season with salt and pepper, and spread half of them
over the fish. Fold cheesecloth over top of fish, and place rest
of the braising liquid, you should have enough to cover bottom of
roaster to a depth of 1/2-inch.

Set roaster over moderately high heat on top of the stove, and
bring liquid barely to the simmer. Cover the roaster (using foil
if you have no conventional cover), and set in lower-middle level
of the oven. Regulate the heat so liquid barely simmers throughout
the cooking, this is to prevent the fish from bursting its skin
and from flaking. Baste several times, using liquid in roaster.
Fish is done at a meat thermometer reading of 165 degrees, or when
there is no raw-red tinge of color inside cavity near backbone, or
when you cut into flesh from edge of back, it comes easily off the
bone. Do not overcook; fish should remain intact and juicy.

Sauce: Spoon or drain most of the liquid and vegetables out of
the roaster into a saucepan; boil down, if necessary, to about 3
cups. Stir 1/4 cup of the Port wine into the cornstarch. Remove
braising liquid from heat and beat into it the cornstarch-Port
mixture; when blended, bring to the simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to
cook the starch. Place the egg yolks in the starch bowl, and blend
in 1/2 cup of the cream. Remove braising liquid again from the
heat, and beat 1 cup of it by driblets into the egg yolks, then
beat the egg yolk mixture back into the braising liquid. Set again
over heat and stir, reaching all over bottom and sides of pan while
sauce comes to the simmer; simmer 1 minute, stirring slowly. Blend
in the optional mushrooms and their juices, and simmer a moment.
Sauce should be thick enough to coat the fish nicely but not too
heavily; thin out, if necessary, with more juices from the roasting
pan or with more cream. Carefully taste for seasoning and flavor;
add more salt, pepper, or Port wine if you feel them needed, sauce
can have a final addition of butter just before serving, to smooth
and enrich it. Clean off sides of pan and film top of sauce with
a spoonful of cream until you are ready to serve.

Brush vegetables off top of fish; lift fish out of roaster (using
rack to help you) and slide it onto serving platter. Peel skin
off top side of fish, and scrape off any brownish bits of flesh.
Pull remains of fins out of back ride, along with any small bones.
Bring sauce again to simmer and remove from heat. Stir in the
parsley, then, by spoonfuls, the optional enrichment butter, adding
a new piece as the last is absorbed. Spoon a coating of sauce and
vegetables over the fish. Pour rest of sauce into a warmed bowl.
If there is room on the platter, arrange the rice or other
accompaniments around the fish. Serve immediately.


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