By BARBARA LAUTERBACH
After the Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby last weekend, and for many the season of Lent is upon us, it seemed that a column about fish might be appropriate. When I had my cooking classes, people would always say, “I don’t cook fish, I don’t know what to do with it.” You have to remember I had my cooking school in the Midwest, and when I moved back to my native new England, people knew a lot more; however, complaints ranged from “It smells up the house” to "the kids won’t eat it.” (Turn on a fan, and buy the kids fish fingers!)
But enough of constructive criticism.
Legend has it that when Paul Child took his wife, Julia, to France the first time, the ship landed at Rouen and Paul, being knowledgeable of the area, took her to La Couronne, a restaurant he apparently knew, where she had sole meuniere, and after the first bite, she had an epiphany! Thus began the second romance of her lifetime, according to her biographer Noel Riley Fitch. Fish and French food in general, it was that good!
Not only is fish good, it is good for us. There is such a range to choose from in the fish family. Think shellfish (lobster, clams, scallops, crabs, shrimp), round fish have an oval or circular shape, and include salmon, tuna, trout and bluefish and, from our own big lake, cusk! Then there are flatfish, flat and broad, such as halibut, sole and flounder.
When you go to select your fish, if you are choosing a whole fish look for clear, slightly bulging eyes, not cloudy. Cloudy eyes mean the fish has been out of the water too long. Press the fish with your finger; whole fish should be firm, not floppy. If I’m in a supermarket, I ask to smell the fish (with the exception of skate and shark, where an ammonia-like odor is actually a sign of freshness).
This is one of my favorite “go to” recipes, it’s quick, easy and delicious!
SALMON WITH HOT MUSTARD GLAZE (serves 4)
½ cup dry mustard powder, preferably Colman’s
½ cup sugar
2 lbs. center cut salmon fillet, about 2 inches at the thickest part, with skin
2 ½ Tb. extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 250 degrees
In a bowl, whisk together mustard, sugar, and up to ¼ cup water, set aside.
Cut the salmon into four uniform portions. Pat dry with a paper towel. Heat 1 Tb. oil in a heavy ovenproof skillet over high heat, (skillet should be large enough to hold all the salmon without crowding. Add salmon, skin side up, and sear quickly for about 2 minutes. Turn, sear another 2 minutes skin side down. Thickest part of the salmon should still be raw in the center.
Brush top of salmon with remaining oil, and the with the mustard sauce. Place in oven for about 10 minutes, until medium-rare in the middle. (An instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the fish should register about 100 to 110 degrees.) Remove from oven and serve.
I have scaled this recipe down for two, or even one. Just halve or quarter ingredients.
This recipe is reported to be the one that Julia ate at La Couronne, and forever changed the course of culinary history. Sole meuniere is simple to prepare: meuniere means “miller’s wife” in French, and indicates the use of flour.
SOLE MEUNIERE (serves 4)
4 fillets of sole
Seasoned flour (lightly salted and dash pepper)
6 TB. unsalted butter
Lemon juice, and lemon slices for garnish
Chopped fresh parsley
Place the flour on a plate and dredge the fish lightly in the flour. Heat 3 Tb. of the butter over medium-high heat and saute the fish lightly until light golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes each side. Place the fish on a warmed serving platter. Add the remaining 3 Tb. butter to the pan. Allow it foam and become slightly brown, add lemon juice, swirl around, and pour over fish. Garnish with lemon slices and parsley.
Barbara Lauterbach is a member of International Association of Culinary Professionals and a Certified Culinary Professional with extensive background in teaching, lecturing, demonstration and product promotion. She is the author of four cookbooks, and has been published in Cooking Light, Yankee, Fine Cooking and the Boston Globe. She lives in Meredith.
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