Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Pasta or rice covered with something in a white sauce is a classic frugal combination. The problem is that too often it is made to taste cheap, with pasty and stiff or flavourless sauce. I wanted to do an update using bulgur, which is my newest favourite grain - very fast to make with a bonus of fiber and flavour for less than 15 cents per serving.
A couple of days ago I made a version of this using canned salmon, but the canned fish broke down too much in the sauce. Smoked fish, while slightly more expensive, keeps its integrity much better and has that great bonus of smoky flavour. I got my smoked fish from a European grocery a few blocks away called K&K Deli, a great place to go for European preserved foods and smoked meats. The fish cost $2.52 whole and yielded about 3/4 lb of meat after the rather finicky process of boning it. I also steeped the fish skeleton for a couple of hours in 2 cups of warm milk to extract the maximum flavour. You can skip this step if you are short on time or if you are working with already boned fish.
I like to add lots of greens to the sauce - watercress was what I had on hand tonight, but a cup of frozen peas would work very inexpensively as well. You might choose to cook vegetables on the side instead. The right balance between watery or too-stiff sauce is important - I mixed the sauce together with cornstarch to the correct consistency before adding the fish and greens, since it's much harder to fix after the other things are added.
Bone one small smoked whitefish, or have ready 3/4 of a pound hot smoked fish in chunks. If desired, steep fish skeleton in 2 cups of milk over low heat for two hours and then strain milk, or just heat 2 cups of milk over medium heat. Chop 1 clove of garlic and add it to the simmering milk. Whisk 2 tbs corn starch into 2 tbs of water and add this to the milk, stirring, until sauce is thick. Stir in fish and 1 cup of chopped watercress (or 1 cup of peas), and heat gently til bubbling and flavours are mixed. Taste for salt. Meanwhile, put 1/2 cup of whole wheat bulgur with 1 cup of water and a few grains of salt in a vented container in the microwave and cook for 2 1/2 minutes, until bulgur is fluffy and water is absorbed. On a plate, mound bulgur with a hole in the middle and spoon in the fish sauce. Serves 2.