Aile de Raie à la Purée de Pommes de Terre
Skate is one of the best fish that swims in the sea. In the U.S. it tends to be little known and regarded with suspicion. True, it has an odd look to it. Only the wings of the skate are sold at the fish market and they are large, oddly shaped, covered with a viscous fluid and otherwise very “briny” in appearance! Don’t let their look keep you from trying the tender, sweet meat under the skin, for it is elegant and very versatile. Skate like to munch on scallops, crab and other sweet-meated delicacies, all of which give skate its own sweet dimension.
I love this preparation for it both comforting and elegant. Skate is available year round, but this is a dish I make in late winter and early spring, for it fits cool weather evenings.
This dish merits a lovely, rich white wine such as a beautiful Saint Véran.
Astuces: Skate wing is usually sold with the skin on. It is simple to remove, and the instructions are provided here under “To poach the skate.” If the wing is already “peeled,” just by-pass the skinning directions.
Skate is almost always served with an acidic vinaigrette or sauce, because its meat is bland without such a foil.
Once the potatoes are cooked they will keep perfectly in the hot water for up to two hours, so that you can prepare them in advance and purée them at the last minute. Do not make the purée in advance, as it quickly loses its freshness.
2 pounds (1 kg) fresh skate wing, dark skin removed
½ cup (70g) all-purpose flour
Fine sea salt
Finely ground blend of three peppercorns (white, black, and green)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the Potatoes
3 pounds (1kg500g) starchy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold or Kennebec, peeled
Fine sea salt
2 ounces (4 tablespoons;60g) unsalted butter
½ cup (125ml) whole milk
For the vinaigrette
¼ cup capers, packed in salt, rinsed in warm water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons almond oil
½ cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup fresh fennel fronds OR 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
- Rinse the skate and refrigerate it until ready to use. If you need to skin it, bring a court bouillon (page 262 of Cooking at Home On Rue Tatin) to a boil and slip the skate into it. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the skate until the skin begins to wrinkle and the meat is opaque through, which will take very little time – about 5 minutes. If the skate isn’t completely submerged in the poaching liquid, ladle the liquid over the skate. The skate doesn’t need to be cooked through, but simply cooked enough so the skin is easy to remove. Transfer the skate to a large platter and carefully scrape off the skin with a sharp knife using gentle sweeping motions. There may be some gristle to remove as well, a clear, jelly-like substance which scrapes easily away. There are also several nasty hooks embedded in the skate near its thickest part – these pry out very easily. Be careful not to disturb the striated pattern of the skate wing. At this point, you are ready to proceed with the recipe.
- Place the flour, the salt, and the ground pepper on a large piece of parchment paper and mix it well, using your fingers. Dredge the skate wing, which should still be slightly moist, in the seasoned flour.
- Heat the butter and the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until it is frothing. When the butter is ready, place the skate wing gently into the pan, cover, and cook until the skate is golden, about 10 minutes, checking it occasionally to be sure it isn’t cooking too quickly. Turn the skate, cover and cook until it is golden on the other side, 10 to 12 minutes, or more or less, depending on the thickness of the skate wing. To check for doneness, using the blade of a very sharp knife, cut into the meat at the thickest part of the skate wing, going all the way to the bone, and pull back on the knife blade – if the meat isn’t opaque and is still slightly pink, it should cook just a few minutes more.
- While the skate is cooking, cook the potatoes by steaming them over boiling water until they are tender through, about 15 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fit with a whisk attachment, and whisk the potatoes until they break up. Then, whisk in the butter and the milk until the purée is light and fluffy. Season it to taste. If you like your purée with more butter, simply add it at this point. Reserve, keeping the potatoes warm.
- Make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl whisk together the mustard and the vinegar, then slowly whisk in the oils. Mince the herbs and add them to the vinaigrette, along with the capers. Season to taste.
- To serve, carefully remove the skate from its cartilaginous bone. First, cut through the skate to the cartilage, making serving sizes. Using a spatula, carefully scrape off the meat so it keeps its shape. Place a small mound of mashed potatoes on the center of one of 4 warmed plates, flatten it slightly, and lay the piece of skate so that part of it rests on the potato purée. Pour equal amounts of the vinaigrette over the skate. Place one-fourth of the remaining butter atop the potatoes on each plate. Mince the fennel or the tarragon and sprinkle it over the skate, then serve immediately.