from: Western Africa | cooking method: baking
Mulet Farci à la Saint-Louisienne
The first French settlement in Africa, Saint-Louis, was founded in the 1600s and became an important center of trade and commerce. In the 1800- and 1900s, it was the capital of the French colony of Senegal and French West Africa. Well known for its African/French ambiance, Saint-Louis is located near the Senegal-Mauritania border on the islands and coast near the mouth of the Senegal River, which makes for a vibrant fishing culture. Saint-Louis is famous for this dish: Mulet Farci à la Saint-Louisienne -- Saint-Louis Stuffed Mullet (also called Dem à la Saint-Louisienne, Mulet Farci, Dem Farci, or Poisson Farci): Mullet stuffed with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and bread crumbs.
What you need
- salt and pepper
- two bay leaves
- one bunch of cilantro and/or parsley, stems and leaves separated and chopped
- one mullet (3 to 4 pounds), whole (cleaned: fins, gills, internal organs, scales removed)
- one cup crushed bread crumbs
- two cloves of garlic, minced
- one bunch of green onions (bulbs and lower part of stems), chopped
- two to four tomatoes (half finely chopped chopped; half cut into quarters)
- one tablespoon tomato paste
- two onions, sliced
- two hot chile peppers, cleaned and quartered
- one teaspoon thyme
- cooking oil
What you do
- Preheat oven to medium heat.
- Begin making the broth: Heat two cups of water in a saucepan. Add the salt, black pepper, bay leaf, and cilantro and/or parsley stems. Simmer.
- Cut the fish: With a sharp knife, carefully cut open the fish from head to tail along its dorsal ridge (the "top edge" of the fish's "back"). Gently peel back the skin, taking care not to tear it. Remove the bones and the edible flesh of the fish. Set aside the head, skin, and tail to use later.
- Separate the bones from the flesh. Add the bones to the broth in the saucepan. Continue to simmer.
- Prepare the stuffing: Moisten the bread crumbs with a few tablespoons of water. Crush, chop, or grind together the cilantro, parsley, garlic, and green onions, salt, and pepper to form a paste. In a large bowl, combine this paste with the boneless fish, the bread crumbs, and the finely chopped tomatos and/or tomato paste. Stir to mix well.
- Stuff the fish: Gently fill the fish skin with the stuffing so as to make it resemble its original shape. Use a needle and kitchen thread to sew the dorsal cut closed.
- Arrange the chopped onions, chile peppers, and quartered tomatoes on a baking dish. Sprinkle with thyme and a few tablespoons of cooking oil. Place the stuffed fish over the vegetables. Cover with a sheet of aluminium foil to make a "tent".
- Place the baking dish in the over. While the fish is baking, strain the broth into a bowl. After twenty-five minutes, remove the foil from the baking dish and pour the broth over the vegetables. Bake for an additional twenty minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the fish is browned.
- Serve fish and vegetables over Rice.
A simpler stuffed fish can be made by mixing the stuffing ingredients (except bread crumbs) and filling the stomach cavity of the cleaned fish with the stuffing. Some cooks do without the fish broth.
Mullet are common in the coast waters of western Africa. In some places, when fishermen spot a school of mullet they "call" dolphins by whacking the water with sticks. The dolphins respond by driving the mullet towards shore, into the fishermen's nets.
In Senegal, mullets are called dems. The French word farci is from the verb farcir, meaning to stuff. Farcir is also seen in some old English recipes as the word forced to mean stuffed.
Other African stuffed fish recipes include Fish & Onions in Tomato Sauce and Ceebu Jën.
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