Pan-fried John Dory and Gnocchi with Cockle Velouté
Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a main course
This dish is a perfect celebration of spring and is a reminder of the wonderful edible gifts that Mother Nature provides us with, for which we are very thankful.
I love cockles for their flavour, especially the way I cook them, because they fill the pan with the ‘taste of the sea’. For this recipe, the cockles are steamed quickly in a hot pan with white wine and lots of sliced shallots, and then the cooking liquor is used to make a creamy cockle velouté.
The lightly cooked and delicate flesh of the John Dory, served with golden nuggets of pan-fried gnocchi, crisp, salty samphire and juicy cockles, combines various flavours and textures of the sea to create this rich and flavourful dish.
Ingredients & Method
For the potato gnocchi
- 250g Desiree potatoes, cut into chunks
- 1 egg 70g type ‘00’ pasta flour
- 2–3 teaspoons semolina
- a splash of olive oil
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the cockle velouté
- 1kg fresh cockles (in shell)
- 4 banana shallots, finely sliced
- 2 large sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 250ml dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 20g unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
- 250ml fish stock
- 100ml double cream
For the pan-fried John Dory and samphire
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 100g samphire, washed
- 2 teaspoons small capers, drained
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 skinless John Dory fillets (65–85g each)
- coarse sea salt, to taste
- 20g cold unsalted butter, diced
First, prepare the potato gnocchi. Preheat the oven to 120°C/Gas Mark 1/2 and line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling salted water for 15–20 minutes or until tender, then drain and transfer them to the prepared baking tray.
Place the tray of potatoes in the oven for 10 minutes to dry them out and remove excess moisture, then remove from the oven and push the potatoes through a ricer into a large mixing bowl (or mash them until very smooth using a potato masher). Add the egg, flour and salt and pepper and mix together to form a soft dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the cockle velouté. Place the cockles in a colander and wash thoroughly under cold running water, then drain well. Discard any cockles that are heavy, broken or that remain open when tapped sharply with the back of a knife. Heat a large saucepan over a high heat and as it approaches ‘smoking hot’, add the cockles, half of the shallots and the parsley sprigs to the pan and shake the pan, then add the wine and cover with the lid. Steam the cockles over a high heat for about 2 minutes or until the shells open, shaking the pan once or twice.
Remove from the heat and immediately transfer the cockle mixture to a muslin-lined fine sieve placed over a bowl to collect the cooking juices. Reserve 150ml of the cooking liquor and discard the rest. Pick the cockle meat from the shells, discarding any unopened cockles. Set the cockle meat aside, then cool and refrigerate until needed.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat and once the butter starts to foam, add the remaining shallots and the coriander seeds, then cover and sweat for 8–10 minutes or until the shallots are transparent but with no colour.
Remove the lid and increase the heat, then add the reserved cockle cooking liquor and boil rapidly for 5–8 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the stock and bring to the boil over a high heat, then boil rapidly for 10–15 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the cream, then bring the sauce back to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat and pass the velouté sauce through a fine sieve into a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Cool, then cover and chill in the fridge until needed, then, just before you are ready to serve, gently reheat the velouté in a small saucepan until hot.
Continue making the gnocchi. Once the dough is rested, place the dough on a lightly floured work surface, divide into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a sausage shape, about 2cm wide. Using a sharp knife, cut each sausage into 2cm-thick slices. Sprinkle the semolina over a baking tray and place the gnocchi pieces on the tray.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the gnocchi, all at once, to the pan, then cover and return the water to a rapid boil. Cook for about 4 minutes or until all the gnocchi float to the surface, carefully stirring once or twice. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of iced water to cool them quickly, then drain well. Toss the gnocchi in the olive oil, then transfer them to a clean, lightly oiled baking tray. Set aside in the fridge until needed.
Once you are ready to serve, finish the gnocchi and pan-fry the John Dory. To finish the gnocchi, melt the tablespoon of butter in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the gnocchi and sauté for about 4 minutes or until golden brown all over. Add the reserved cockle meat, the samphire and capers and sauté for 1 minute, then add salt and pepper, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and the chopped parsley.
Meanwhile, pan-fry the John Dory. Heat the olive oil in a separate large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Season the John Dory fillets with the coarse salt, then place the fillets, presentation-side down, into the hot pan and add the knobs of cold butter. Pan-fry for 2 minutes, then carefully flip the fish over and cook for a further 1 minute or until cooked and flaky. Drain the fish fillets on kitchen paper. In the meantime, gently reheat the velouté as directed.
To serve, spoon some of the gnocchi mixture on to serving plates, place 2 pan-fried John Dory fillets on top of each portion and then spoon over the remaining gnocchi mixture. Froth the velouté using a stick blender, then spoon the foaming sauce over the fish and serve immediately.