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Blackberry Farm’s Country Ham-Wrapped Sturgeon with Fennel and Sun-Dried Tomato White Bean Ragout

Tennessee was one of the first states to farm-raise sturgeon. The enterprise was started in order to restock rivers and lakes with the big fish that was once king, but it became clear that at least one out of ten of the farmed sturgeon should be sold, especially now that landing wild sturgeon is illegal in most states. Those who do not have the good fortune to live within cooking distance of country ham and very fresh (and legal) sturgeon could use prosciutto and grouper instead. The beans can be made well in advance of dinner; in fact, they improve with several days’ rest. Just keep in mind that they need to be soaked overnight.

Ingredients:

For the ragout: 

  • 1/2 cup dried navy beans 
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil 
  • 1/2 white onion, diced 
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced 
  • 1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced  
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water 
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomato halves, cut into thin strips 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper 
  •   

For the sturgeon: 

  • 4 skinless sturgeon fillets, each 4 oz. 
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper 
  • 4 paper-thin slices of country ham 
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil 

Directions:

Soak the beans overnight in water to cover.

Drain the beans, place them in a medium saucepan with the 4 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the beans, uncovered, until tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Drain and set aside.

To make the ragout, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the carrot and fennel and continue to cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the beans and the stock to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes more to allow all the flavors to meld. Season with the salt and pepper.

To make the sturgeon, preheat an oven to 400°F.

Sprinkle the fish with the salt and pepper, then wrap each piece of fish in a slice of country ham, leaving the ends exposed.

In a large ovenproof fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil until hot. Add the fish and cook on all sides until the ham is golden brown. Transfer the pan to the oven and continue to cook for 4 to 5 minutes more; the fish is done when it feels firm to the touch. Serve the fish on top of the ragout. Serves 4.

Adapted from The Blackberry Farm Cookbook, by Sam Beall (Clarkson Potter, 2009).