Trout with Almonds and Green Beans

January 30th, 2013 · 64 Comments · Seafood

The first time we made this was in January 2007 — I  remember that not only because, um, it’s written in my dinner diary, but because it was one of the keepers that came out of the original “30 Days, 30 Dinners” experiment (the prequel to Seven Days, Seven Meals that I hope you guys are still reaping rewards from). I want to say it was around Day 28 or 29 when Andy reached up into our cookbook library and pulled down our French Laundry Cookbook to look for ideas.

“Yeah right,” I said. The last time I had thought about The French Laundry was when I had been lucky enough to dine at the Napa legend about a decade earlier. Reservations were impossible to get, they only booked you 30 days in advance, and tables were usually all scooped up within 15 minutes of the reservation line opening. This was before OpenTable — it might have even been before me owning a cell phone – because I remember circling the day on my calendar that was exactly 30 days before the one night during a trip to SF that we’d have free, then camping out in my apartment on Monroe Place in Brooklyn and speed-dialing for an hour until I got through. Thirty days later we sat down to a parade of dishes served with bacon emulsions and pea coulis and quotation marks.

Things were getting blurry. Was that even my life? What on earth could we make from that cookbook that had any relevance to our real life?

But wearing his parent goggles, Andy found one that worked. What he found was basically a cleaner, healthier Trout Amandine and it worked for us because it was a) fast b) took advantage of my daughter’s newly discovered, Nemo-induced fish obsession and c) fast.

Trout with Almonds and Green Beans
Adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook, by Thomas Keller 

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 trout filets (about 1 pound for four)
1/2 cup slivered raw almonds
2 large handfuls trimmed green beans (enough to fill four people)
red pepper flakes, a few shakes
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon butter
chives, optional

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook fish skin-side down, 2 to 3 minutes. Lift it out and place on a platter (you might have to do this in batches if your skillet is not large enough.) The fish will not be cooked all the way through, it will still be pink in the middle. To the pan, add the green beans with some red pepper flakes and cook them over medium heat for about 5 minutes. With tongs, lift them out and place on top of the fish on the platter. (By doing that you are adding heat to the fish.) Add one more glug of oil to the pan, throw in the almonds and stir until just toasty, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape them over the fish.

Add lemon juice, butter, wine and stir about 30 seconds until reduced and slightly syrupy. Pour on top of fish, beans, and almonds.

Garnish with chives.

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How Lucky Are We?

May 18th, 2011 · 18 Comments · Grilling, Quick, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup

Have you ever stopped to think about how lucky we all are to be parents in 2011? Not just because DVD players are built into back seats or that iTunes offers a staggering selection of white-noise-for-baby songs (including vacuum!), but because cooking for our children is overlapping with the here-to-stay movement of cooking simple, fresh, food. I don’t know about you, but when I first decided I was going to teach myself to cook, I was picturing fancy and dreaming big. The recipes I gravitated towards involved lots of steps and artery-clogging ingredients. (I’m talking to you Silver Palate Tortellini with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce!*) Those were the meals that professional cooks made, right? I realize that Chez Panisse had been open for a full 20 years by that point in my life, but if you asked me who Alice Waters was when I was 22, there’s a 100% chance I would have told you she was the author of The Color Purple. The point is, we are so lucky that simple food equals good food, and that you can brush a little smoked paprika butter* on a piece of just-off-the-boat super-mild tilefish and have a sophisticated dinner that doesn’t necessarily alienate the kids. And that’s just what we did last weekend.

**Yes, I debuted it for Andy on July 16, 1993 and took notes.

*I loved every page of Blood, Bones, and Butter, but I think every page I dogeared mentioned smoked-paprika butter.

You can find smoked paprika in the spice section of most ethnic markets or at Penzeys.com.

To make the smoked paprika butter: Beat together 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick) with 1 tablespoon smoked paprika and a large pinch of kosher or sea salt until it’s blended together.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt your smoked paprika butter and pour into a heatproof bowl.

Grilled Fish with Smoked Paprika Butter
This is the second Sunday in a row that we’ve started off on a healthy note and I’m hoping to keep it up through summer. The formula is pretty simple: grilled seafood +  healthy grain + anything with kale.

Prepare Your Grill. Marinate a 1-pound piece of firm white fish (such as tilefish, swordfish, mahi mahi) in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. (Add the lemon only about five minutes before you grill.) Once grill is hot, grill filet about 4-5 minutes a side depending on thickness brushing smoked paprika butter as you go. (Fish is done when it’s firm to the touch with out being rock hard.) Remove fish from grill and brush one more time with butter. Serve with braised kale salad and herby barley salad (simple!) below.

Simple Barley Salad

Bring 1 cup pearl barley, (rinsed and picked over), a teaspoon salt, and 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes until barley is firm but cooked through. Toss with a few tablespoons chopped herbs (I used parsely, thyme), olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped scallions, and a squeeze of lemon (or tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar).

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Fish & Chips

October 18th, 2010 · 19 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Seafood

I was thinking of adding a new category on the right over there called “Meals That Are Impossible To Photograph Because My Daughter Can’t Help But Eat The Subject.” Because don’t you think it’s saying something about the deliciousness of a meal when I have to instruct my poor, hungry, 8-year-old model “Stop eating your dinner!” as she mauls what’s in front of her — in this case a fried fish sandwich with sweet potato chips — before I even have the chance to finish shooting it? She just couldn’t help herself. So I never got to capture a close-up, which means you’ll have to trust me that this crispy flounder sandwich has potential to convert even the staunchest fish-anthrope. My kids like them with tartar sauce, but don’t be afraid to use ketchup if you think it might increase your chances of success.

Pan-Fried Fish Sandwiches
We made these with flounder, but it works with other mild white fish like sole, tilapia, or hake.

Set up dredging station for fish: one plate of flour, one plate of one whisked egg, one plate of bread crumbs(preferably panko or Kelloggs Corn Flake crumbs) seasoned with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to a skillet that’s been set over medium-high heat. Dredge fish filets (about ¾ pound that have been trimmed with a knife or kitchen scissors to sandwich-size pieces) first in flour, then in egg, then in bread crumbs. Fry about 2 minutes a side until crust is crispy and fish is cooked through. Serve on whole wheat buns with tartarsauce (or ketchup) and sweet potato fries (I love Trader Joe’s frozen brand) or sweet potato chips (recipe below). (more…)

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Fish Presents

March 26th, 2010 · 4 Comments · Dinner, Picky Eating, Posts by Andy, Seafood

It didn’t take us long to figure out that, when it comes to rolling out a new product at the family table, so much depends upon the marketing campaign. I doubt our kids would have gone within a mile of cauliflower had we not first introduced it to them as “white broccoli.” They wouldn’t have sniffed brussels sprouts had we not sold them relentlessly as “baby lettuces.” Same goes for baked beans (“sweet beans”), bell peppers (“rainbow peppers”), dried cranberries (“red raisins”), and on and on. It’s the oldest trick in advertising and that’s not by accident.

Our latest venture in rebranding involved the kind of intimidating-sounding fish en papillote, which is just a fancy way of saying fish steamed in parchment paper. Neither description had a chance of flying with our kids. So we came up with something a little more intriguing. (Notice I did not say misleading.) Fish Presents, is what we decided on. Tonight we’re having fish presents! “Presents?” they asked. I gave them no further information.

The best thing about this meal is that you can chop everything ahead of time and then have the kids help you assemble and “wrap” the presents. So I sliced up 1 lemon and 1/2 a medium red onion, nice and thin, and 1 cup of shitake mushrooms. I boiled about 10 baby bok choy in salted water for two minutes, strained, and set aside. I poured 1/4 cup of olive oil into a small bowl and added a few red pepper flakes. Then the kids grabbed their stools, and we started the assembly line. Here’s how it goes:

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