Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One Fish, Ooo...Fish

I've been sitting here at my little white screen now for many a minute, trying to think of an eloquent, perhaps even witty way to say what needs to be said. Now, I've decided it may just be one of those things best simply blurted out. *(uncomfortable throat clear)* Before I became the food-loving, feasting omnivore that I am today, I'd have been described by some as...irrational. Ok, neurotic. I hinted at it in early entries here, but the truth is I haven't been completely honest with you about my past in the kitchen.

I wish I had tallied the number of peanut butter and honey sandwiches that saw me through elementary school. Or cereal bowls that served as breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner through all the numbered grades, splashing over into my college years. For the larger part of my life I was the pickiest of eaters. But it wasn't just that. My finicky attitude ran so rampant that there were certain foods that rather than a hand wave and a shake of the head, elicited a full body cringe at the thought of bringing them into my house. The list included (though was not limited to) cheese, dill pickles, and fish. Silver sided, slimy, fish with their eyeballs staring me down... Fishsticks, sure. But real, head-to-tail fish. Never.

I have come very far from those pickle-fear-filled days. And while I welcome a delicious, roasted fillet of fish, seeing the animal, whole and slick in my house, it is still something I haven't dared to stomach. That is until this fated Wednesday past.

Russ comes home bright eyed and excited. He is holding a bag.

"Just wait until I cook you dinner tonight," he promises. He reaches into the bag, revealing his grand plans.

Rainbow. Trout. I feel an immediate, involuntary compulsion to grab a box of cereal and run to the farthest corner of the apartment. Russ is confused. I fess up my fear of floppy, fin-on, fresh fish. He makes promises of butter and garlic, sea salt and rosemary, sage and white wine.

I say first things first.

Sipping my drink, blushing a hint, I make a firm commitment to squelch the outward display of food phobia. Inside, I allow myself to silently freak out, still wobbly in the gut.

But, as the herbs come out, and the fish heads comes off, I find myself growing increasingly able, and interested, in the show before me. Watching the process of that slithery animal becoming what I recognize as "food fish", I'm aware of my lack of connectedness to what I've consumed so readily in breaded sticks and sesame-crusted fillets on lunch salads. The knife gracefully splits the suddenly sweetly-shiny, silvery skin. Soft pats of butter sink down into the light pink sides. Sage and rosemary is ticker-tape on this seafood surprise party.

By the time the fish is slid into the oven I'm watching the clock, asking how long until we eat. Eyeing Russ saute maple syrup and thyme glazed butternut squash doesn't hurt the situation one bit.

Smelling the rich, sweet and wine-bathed fish roasting, my safety cereal box is long packed away into the pantry.

With some greens, syrup-sweetened squash and that surprising little fish on the plate, I think I may have just gotten past the breakers.

The fish, my friends, was awesome. Oh my gosh was it tasty. I ate a whole side and then went back for the other. I couldn't believe it. I ate a fish. A whole fish. I'm only writing in repetition because part of me still can't believe it. Pulling at little pin bones, in the end I found myself loving the dish and leaving only a pile of peeled skin to prove it was there at all.

So now you know. I feel good to have gotten that bit of my past aired out and off my chest. I feel even better about passing this recipe on to you. Stare that fish down and make this for dinner (ok, ok, if you're like me, have a glass of wine and have someone make it for you. Small steps.) Pull a surprise out of your shopping bag and let it surprise you. Let there be a place for peanut butter and cereal. But make room for a little fish too.

Herb Poached Rainbow Trout

2 whole, medium large rainbow trout, boned
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
3 large sprigs of rosemary
1/2 t ground, dried sage
1 T butter
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
1 1/2 T live oil
approx 1/2 C white wine

1. Remove heads and tails from fish, as well as any other non-fleshy material on the animal. Russ suggests cutting a little off the belly; because fatty-fish can store heavy metals in their bellies, and since you lose little from cutting there, it's a not-bad, healthy idea.
2. Open fish so skin is down, and flesh of both sides faces up.
2. Season the meat with sea salt and black pepper.
3. Sprinkle one side with garlic.
4. Add rosemary needles to one side of each fish.
5. Sprinkle sage evenly over opened fillets.
6. Distribute small pats of butter over one side of each fish.
7. Close the fish like a book.
8. In the bottom of a medium sized baking dish, drizzle oil to coat and place fish in pan.
9. Pour in white wine until it comes about half-way up the side of the fish (but not high enough to spill into the cut fillet! You may have to add more or less than the recipe suggests, depending on your dish and the size of your fish).
10. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 min.
11. Test fish for doneness; you don't want to see any pink in the middle! However, note that it is ok to eat fish like this a little rare, and overcooked the fish will turn to mush. The cooked flesh of the fish will be creamy white rather than light pink.


Andy M said...

Step 2 is referred to as butterflying, FYI.

I was going to ask why you would discard the head, which many foodies consider to be the best part of the fish (cheeks and eyeballs, oh my!)... but then I realized I should say, "one step at a time."

Once you get comfortable with this, try leaving the head on. Russ might be trying something new, too :)

Anna said...

i love reading your blog. this one reminds me of the old kaitlin ;)

p.s. the head is my favorite part too