White sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish in North America and can weigh over 1,500 pounds, reach 20 feet in length and live for more than 100 years. Instead of scales, sturgeon are protected by a heavy sandpaper-like skin and five rows of bony plates, called scutes, that serve as an armorlike covering. They are a primitive, bottom-dwelling, slow-growing, late-maturing anadromous fish. White sturgeon spawn in the large rivers of the Pacific Northwest in the spring and summer months and remain in freshwater while young. They have extremely firm flesh with a rich, earthy flavor.
The bad news is that many wild sturgeon runs in the Pacific Northwest are on the endangered species list. We feel most fish farms actually promote ecological destruction and further protein loss. Since there must be an exception to every rule, we do recommend farm-raised white sturgeon from Stolt Sea Farm in Elverta, California. They raise white sturgeon in an ecologically and economically sustainable environment.
The couscous and the eggplant may be prepared a day in advance and reheated prior to serving. Add a touch of vegetable stock or water to the pan while reheating.
- 1In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, add the vegetable stock, paprika, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Reduce heat to low and allow liquid to simmer.
- 2In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the oil. When oil is hot, add the onion and red pepper and cook until the vegetables are soft but not colored, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Add the couscous and stir to coat the grains with oil.
- 3Remove pan from heat. Add the simmering liquid to the couscous and stir to distribute the liquid evenly. Cover the pan and allow the couscous to steam for 5 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is soft. Add green onions and “fluff” couscous with a fork. Keep warm
To prepare the spicy eggplant:
- 1Place eggplant in a large colander placed over a large bowl. Sprinkle salt over the eggplant. Allow eggplant to sit and release its moisture for 45 minutes to an hour.
- 2Wash salt off of the eggplant and pat dry with a towel. Place a large sauté pan or wok over high heat. Add vegetable oil. When oil is hot, add eggplant and sauté until caramelized on the outside. Add the ginger, garlic and chili and cook 1 minute, until aromatics are just starting to turn golden browm. Add chili oil. Quickly add sugar, vinegar, orange juice, vegetable stock or water, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Cook until the eggplant is soft and the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
To prepare the sturgeon:
- 1Place a sauté pan, large enough to hold all the fish, over medium heat. Season the sturgeon with salt and pepper. Add the oil and butter to the hot pan. When butter begins to foam, slip the fish into the pan. Sear the flesh for 4 to 5 minutes, or until a crust is formed. Turn the fish over and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes, or until the flesh is opaque but still moist. Keep fish warm in a low-temperature oven.
- 1Divide couscous among 4 warm plates. Place spicy eggplant in the center of the couscous and place sturgeon on top of eggplant.
Beverage pairing: A dry Gewürztraminer with hints of orange and spice will hold up to the spicy heat of the eggplant and the richness of the fish. Recommended: 2001 Alderbrook, Gewürztraminer, Russian River Valley, California; or 2000 Covey Run, Gewürztraminer, Washington state.
This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.