Merlans Farcis aux Crevettes

Merlans Farcis aux Crevettes (mer-lan fahr-see oh creh-vet) is a delicately flavoured French dish of whiting stuffed with shrimps or prawns, ideal for a lunch or dinner party. Serve with croquette potatoes and creamed cauliflower or leeks, and a well-chilled white wine such as Sancerre.

When you buy the whiting, ask the fishmonger to remove the head, slit the fish open and bone and clean it.

6 medium-sized whiting, boned and cleaned

1 lemon, quartered

1½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 oz. butter

10 oz. small button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

10 oz. shrimps or prawns, shelled

6 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C).

Wash the whiting under cold running water and pat them dry with kitchen paper towels. Squeeze the lemon quarters over the fish and discard the lemon. Rub the fish, inside and out, with 1 teaspoon of the salt and z teaspoon of the black pepper. Set the fish aside.

In a medium-sized frying-pan, melt 1 ounce of the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the sliced mushrooms and the remaining salt and pepper. Fry, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the mushrooms are just tender. Stir in the shrimps or prawns and parsley and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the shrimps or prawns are heated through.

Remove the pan from the heat. With a slotted spoon, remove the prawns or shrimps and mushrooms from the pan and stuff them into the cavities of the fish.

Cut half the remaining butter into small pieces and dot them over the bottom of a large, shallow baking dish. Place the stuffed fish, side by side, in the dish, in one layer. Cut the remaining butter into small pieces and dot them over the fish.

Place the dish in the centre of the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Remove the dish from the oven and serve immediately.

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