Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Go Fish

A lot of my friends are excited that I've started this blog.  Many of them have been telling me for months, maybe even years, that I would be great at blogging.  I guess only time will tell.  But, as a couple of these friends made clear to me today, any blog I write needs recipes.  I love being in my kitchen, making delicious food for my family.  So where better to start than the dinner we had tonight?

So, fish.  Fish, in a culinary aspect, used to be pretty scary to me.  Geez, sometimes fish in non-culinary aspects are scary to me!  If I'm in the lake and something brushes my leg, get ready for a yelp.  But back to the kitchen.  I always felt like there was so much more that could go wrong with fish.  Cooking it wrong, having it taste bad, or worse, giving everyone food poisoning.  On top of that, fish is one of those "love it or hate it" kind of foods, and I wasn't sure I was on the "love it" side.  Anyone out there with me?

Side note: I'm sure that I will mention my friend Amy in this blog a few times, but let me fill you in.  Amy owns and runs Amy's Organics, a "mobile organic farmers' market", and it is awesome.  She's awesome too.  You can check it out at www.amysorganics.org.  I could go on forever about what a great service she has, but that wouldn't put fish on your table.  So, long story short, Amy has made it very convenient for me to live out my values of keeping my family's food high quality, delicious, and local.  One of the things Amy delivers from her truck is fish.  Not ordinary fish...fish wild-caught by natives out of the waters of the Great Lakes.  I'm sure it's probably not as romantic as I picture it, but I'm still going to picture birch canoes and ritualistic dances for bounty and abundance eventually resulting in the gorgeous fillets that Amy brings to my door.  I braved the fish for the first time last year, and since then, my family has enjoyed many different types of fish, including perch and walleye.  It's not as scary as I thought, and I'm going to share my method with you.

Here's the fish.  Today, it's trout.  For my family of 5, two good-sized fillets (around a pound each) works out almost perfectly.  I'm sure it won't be enough once they get older, but this method is easy to multiply servings.  The fish we get is usually free of bones, with skin on, so it's pretty good to go from the start.  I like to rinse the fillets and pat them dry with paper towels.  Then I lay them out and get ready to flavor them up.

 I know I said recipes at first, but I'm not really a by-the-book kind of gal.  So this is really more of a method, a guideline that you can play with.  Here's what I used tonight: wine, salt and pepper, garlic and herb butter, an onion, a lemon, and good old butter.  Do you need to use exactly that?  No.  I don't do the same thing every time.  Tonight I just happened to have the garlic herb butter, but I usually just use the plain butter and minced garlic.   If I have fresh herbs out in the garden or on hand in the fridge, I might throw in some dill and/or chives.  Maybe basil.  If I don't have wine on hand (ha ha), I use stock, or just squeeze in juice from another lemon.  Don't like butter?  Fine, use another fat, like olive oil, or maybe lay some bacon on top.  Find the way you like, and have fun experimenting!

If you're using an oven, preheat it to 450.  You can also do this on an outdoor grill...get that preheated well too.  You can wrap the fish in foil, but I've come across a lot of mixed reviews on the potential health dangers of the foil having contact with the food.  So, what I do is lay out a large sheet of foil, and then lay a large sheet of parchment on top of it.  You have the food safety of parchment and the sturdiness of the foil.  Best of both worlds.

Slice the onion and the lemon as thinly as you can without losing a fingertip.  You can pick out any lemon seeds, if you want, but I just leave them in, because I take the lemon slices off before eating the fish anyways.  Sprinkle the fillets with some salt and pepper.  Then lay the slices of onion and lemon, gob on some butter, and throw in the herbs.  Mine look something like this:

After that, I turn up the sides of the parchment/foil combo and drizzle on some of the white wine.  I'm not great with measuring, but I'm pretty sure this is flexible here.  Probably about a quarter cup.  And use wine that you like to drink.  There may be some wines out there that "go better" with fish, or with specific fish, but I am not a wine expert.  To me, it makes sense that if I like to drink it, I will probably enjoy it in the dish.  And if I don't, I'll just pour myself a few more glasses.  Then I won't care about the fish as much.

Fold the parchment over the now-decorated fish, and then roll the foil shut to make a closed packet.  Put that packet closed seam-side up in your oven or on your grill.  The timing will depend on how hot it is, how much fish you have, how thick it is, what kind of mood the fish was in when caught...you get the picture.  But basically, I'd take a peek at around the 15-20 minute mark.  When the fish is done, it will flake easily with a fork, even at the thickest part of the fillet.  

Sit back and marvel at your culinary skills.  Looks pretty yummy, right?

And here's our dinner, finished.  Trout served up with some pan-fried potatoes and steamed broccoli.  Even my very picky 4 year old who won't eat meat swam 3 big bites of fish into his mouth without complaining.  To me, that's a success.

So, for those of you who like a more concise recipe format, here goes:

Fresh or thawed fish fillets
butter (or oil)
garlic, minced
onion, sliced thinly
lemon, sliced thinly
white wine (or stock)

Preheat your oven or grill to around 450 degrees.  Lay out a large piece of foil and top that with a large piece of parchment.  Rinse the fish fillets and gently pat them dry with a paper towel.  Lay them on the parchment.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Lay the slices of onion and lemon and some garlic on top.  Put pats of butter on the fillets or drizzle them with a little oil.  Toss some herbs on top.  Turn up the edges of the foil and pour about 1/4 cup of wine over everything.  Fold the parchment over the fish, and then seal the foil to make a closed packet.  Place the packet in the oven (or on the grill).  Bake until the fish is cooked and the thickest part will flake with a fork, about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the fillets.  

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