The first question: What exactly is this fish? Dorade, sometimes written daurade in French, has many appelations in English, among them porgy and bream. From a cook’s point of view, it doesn’t much matter – as this recipe works well with any medium-sized white-flesh saltwater fish. Red snapper, pampano or sea bass would make great substitutes, for example. The fish is lightly coated with olive oil, stuffed with fresh basil and baked in a very hot oven to obtain a tandoori effect — crispy on the outside and tender within.
Dorade au four au pistou / Baked porgy with French basil sauce
Getting back to the appelation, there are several versions of the fish the French call dorade, one of the most prized being the dorade royale (at right). And as it turns out, this is the only dorade that may also be written daurade — a nuance that had escaped my notice during all my years in France. A fish fit for a king or queen, it is called gilt-head bream by the English. Its relatives include yellowfin and scup. My best culinary experience of dorade took place in Senegal, along an area the West African coast where the fish are plentiful. There, they serve it braisé — which surprisingly does not mean braised but rather grilled over charcoal — accompanied by an unbelievably fiery and delicious hot pepper sauce. Although I’ve searched for this sauce in Paris for years, I’ve never been able to find it. Never mind. Dorade au pistou, while quite different, is almost as good.
I love dorade/daurade but never knew it was the same fish as porgy. I hope you’ll recreate that fiery Senegalese hot sauce and share it with us, Meg!
Whether or not porgy is the same fish as dorade, I can’t say for sure. They are in the same family. As I found out while writing about the recipe, porgy is a generic name for various sorts of fish of the Sparidae family. However, as a cook and not a zoologist, I can recommend this method of preparing that sort of fish. With or without the hot sauce!