George Washington would have caught sturgeon from the nearby Potomac River near his estate, Mount Vernon. While it is an unsightly fish by today’s standards, it was a popular menu option for early Americans as it was readily available. It still makes a delicious entrée. This recipes is based on an original version written by Mary Randolph originally published in The Virginia Housewife.
Serves 6 to 8
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Clean and debone the fish thoroughly and skin it. Cut fillets of the fish, slicing a pocket inside each fillet, but not cutting through the end.
Stuff the fillets with the crabmeat stuffing, leaving a mound on top for presentation.
Place fillets in baking dish and pour white wine on top. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Bake for 30 minutes, allowing the fish to simmer in the wine sauce and basting occasionally.
Remove from oven, plate on a platter and garnish with lemon wedges and chervil. Drizzle with citrus vinaigrette.
From The City Tavern Cookbook: Recipes from the Birthplace of American Cuisine,
© 2009 by Walter Staib
Crab, like lobster, was so plentiful in the New World that it was used as bait and prepared in all manner of dishes, including crab cakes, crab soup, and crab stuffing. Most recipes similar to modern crab cakes called for the crab to be mixed with vegetables and bread crumbs, then stuffed back into the crab shell and roasted over an open fire. Understanding the difficulty this would pose to modern chefs, the recipe has been amended to this more familiar preparation.
Prepare the crab stuffing: Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet, add the onion and bell peppers, and sauté for 5 minutes, until soft and translucent and any liquid they release has evaporated. Set aside and let cool completely.
Pick over the crab meat to discard any cartilage and pieces of shell. Transfer the crab meat to a medium-size mixing bowl. Add the cooked onion and bell peppers, the bread crumbs, eggs, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
Citrus was an extravagant indulgence in the American Colonies in the 18th Century because oranges and lemons were imported from Seville, Spain. While it was fresh, citrus would have been used for displays on tables, and after it began to age, frugal cooks would have used the fruit for juices and vinaigrettes such as this one.
Squeeze the oranges into a medium-sized bowl. Add the red wine vinegar, then add the red onions, herbs, tomato and pepper. Stir well to combine.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Drizzle over stuffed sturgeon, or serve as vinaigrette with any seafood or fish entrée.