The sauces used in French cuisine are as diverse as the ingredients they are served with. French cuisine may seem complicated to the uninitiated but in essence the emphasis is on good, seasonal produce so you should always let that guide your choices to some extent.
However, there are a number of classic sauces that work well with several fish varieties, and there are a number of classic dishes which must be consist of a particular pairing of fish/sauce. I’m thinking of dishes like Sole Bonne Femme (a creamy sauce with lemon juice and mushrooms) or sole Veronique (another creamy sauce this time with sliced grapes)or a chunky fillet of cod with a Mornay sauce (a creamy sauce with cheese in it).
The times when we may be unprepared are perhaps the times we worry most about how we create dishes and whether the components work together. However, there are some sauces that can be made easily and quickly safe in the knowledge that they will work with the ingredients at hand.
– Keep a jar of capers and another of pickled gherkins in your store cupboard to add to a hollandaise sauce and make a “sauce tartar” that will be a good accompaniment to fried fish or battered fish or seafood.
– A “mariniere” is often a way of serving mussels but can be used for other fish too; cook white fish in white wine and then thicken the cooking liquid with a roux at the end.
– A good strong “aioli” (garlic mayonnaise) is a must with lobster or chunky meaty langoustines
– Consider a creamy tarragon sauce with delicately flavoured fish such as trout. In fact experiment with different herbs adding them to a simple cream sauce – dill works especially well with salmon.
– Summery cold salmon dishes are set off by a sharp homemade mayonnaise – again add herbs and make your sauce look fresh and vibrant.
– Spicy tomato sauces work well with meaty white fish such as cod or monkfish.
– Never forget your cooking liquor or the shells from seafood. Use it to make a good stock then thicken the stock with a roux, beure manie or cream to make the most of those intense flavours. This works really well when serving lobster or crevettes.
Finally, you are in charge; experiment and eat what suits your tastes.