Whole Roast Trout Dinner with Potatoes and Asparagus for Two

RECIPE: One-Tray Roast Trout with Potatoes, Asparagus, and Herbs
Whole Roast Trout with Potatoes and Asparagus

Whole Roast Trout with Potatoes and Asparagus

In the summer, my family always grills whole fish stuffed with lemons and herbs until they’re charred and smoky and flaky and perfect. We serve them along with asparagus that’s crisped on the corner of the grill, and some boiled potatoes or corn. It’s my family’s version of the perfect summer barbecue, light but hearty, and just so happy and comforting.

Back at work in London, I wanted to find a way to recreate the summer grilled fish magic for me and Mr. English. My oven-roasted version is the ultimate easy weeknight feast stand-in. I stuff two whole rainbow trout with olive oil, huge bundles of mossy lemon thyme, and windowpanes of sliced lemon. I roast them on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with a mess of baby new potatoes and asparagus. Just leave them all together in the oven for 25 minutes and come back to crisp potatoes, charred asparagus, and juicy, flaky, herbaceous trout.

Two nights ago, as Mr. English sat down at the table, I put a plate with a whole fish and a garden of vegetables in front of him. He told me to bring my plate and he’d split it with me. When I told him it was all his and that I had my own, he was disarmingly thrilled. It’s a feast full of healthy, easy, fast, and hearty flavor. Continue reading

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Tagliatelle with Provençal Red Pistou for a Meatless Monday

RECIPE: Tagliatelle with Provençal Red Pistou
Tagliatelle with Provençal Red Pistou

Fresh Tagliatelle with Provençal Red Pistou

In the south of France, everything is tagliatelle. I will never forget the first time I had this dish: June, a handful of years ago, outside at a table tucked away down a side alley in the little seaside town of Cassis. A breeze billowing through a humble tablecloth. The sky still lit, but casting only shadows. We had been travelling all day. I wanted something authentic, Provençal, but still familiar.

Out came a tangle of soft, flat pasta, wafting the scent of garlic like a cloud, flavored with smashed basil, oozing Parmesan, and the sweet, chewy tang of the plethora of Provençal sun-dried tomatoes that makes Provençal pistou what it is, and so different from the pestos we’ve come to know. It was humble and simple, but representative of the place where everything is tangled in garlic and tomatoes and herbs. For me, this dish is forever summer in Provence.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Happy Meatless Monday!

Tagliatelle with Provençal Red Pistou
serves 4 to 6

Tagliatelle with Provençal Red PistouINGREDIENTS

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 20 sundried tomatoes (a full half cup)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound fresh tagliatelle

PROCEDURE

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  While the water is heating, make the pistou.  Add the garlic to the food processor, and blitz it to smithereens.  Add the basil, sundried tomato, Parmigiano Reggiano, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Blitz in the food processor until you have the consistency of a pesto, scraping down the sides of the bowl once to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.

Salt the boiling water, and cook the tagliatelle for just about 4 minutes, until just cooked.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.  Toss the tagliatelle with the pistou, adding pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce.  Serve immediately.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Meatless Mondays, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

Mustardy Salmon in a Packet with Asparagus

RECIPE: Mustardy Salmon in a Packet with Asparagus
Mustard Salmon en Papillote with Asparagus

Mustard Salmon en Papillote with Asparagus

I have spent the last four years on Serious Eats proving that cooking French food can be really easy.  And to prove it, all I had to do was write this recipe.

This is a real weeknight wonder.  I do my own little version of papillote parceling: not as beautiful as the all-parchment pleated version, but far more efficient.  I tear off a big sheet of foil and line it with a slightly smaller sheet of parchment.  Then, I have the ease of folding and sealing foil with the non-reactive contact of parchment on the food.  I build a pile of asparagus, followed by salmon, and a quick cold sauce of crème fraîche, Dijon mustard, grain mustard, and white wine.  Then, I wrap the whole thing up in the foil packets, and run them into the oven for about 12 minutes.  It’s like making your own fresh version of a frozen dinner: everything you need, your veggies, your fish, your sauce, is already in that packet, and you eat it right out of the parchment.  No muss, no fuss!

When the packets are in the oven, the trapped steam wilts the asparagus, poaches the salmon, and melts the creamy mustard sauce into rivulets that permeate the fish and the vegetables.  I eat it with warm crusty bread to soak up some of the steaming sauce.  C’est si bon!

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Mustardy Salmon in a Packet with Asparagus
serves 4

Mustard Salmon en Papillote with AsparagusIngredients

  • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 2 bunches (32 stems) asparagus, trimmed and cut in thirds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless skinless salmon filets (about 6 ounces each)

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Whisk together the crème fraîche, wine, and mustards. Set aside.

Tear off four large rectangles of aluminum foil, and four slightly smaller rectangles of parchment. Place the parchment on top of the foil. On each sheet of parchment, place a quarter of the asparagus and season with salt and pepper. On top of each pile of asparagus, place one piece of salmon, and season the fish with salt and pepper. Divide the mustard sauce among the four pieces of salmon, pouring it over the top. Finally, fold the packets of foil so they are sealed up tight with the parchment and fish within. Bake packets on a large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer until fish is cooked through, about 12 minutes. Open packets and serve.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

Blackened Salmon with Crunchy Coconut Couscous for Two

RECIPE: Blackened Salmon with Crunchy Coconut Couscous
Blackened Salmon with Coconut Couscous

Blackened Salmon with Coconut Couscous

This is the perfect easy, interesting dinner.  And, might I add from yesterday’s experience, also a terrific cold packed lunch.

The concept is simple: no-fuss baked salmon crusted in hot blackening spice perched on a pile of cool coconut couscous splintered with fresh herbs.  It’s New Orleans meets Miami in fifteen minutes.  The salmon is spicy, salty, savory—and meaty.  The couscous is fluffy and fresh, packed full of mint, parsley, green onions, and pumpkin seeds.  Each bite packs a contrasting punch of fire and ice, and it’s so good.

Couscous should always be on-hand for ten-minute wonder dinners.  It’s the easiest starch to cook: just pour boiling water over it and let it stand off the heat until it’s perfect, every time.  But here’s the trick to this special version: cook the couscous in a can of coconut milk instead of water.  The couscous sucks up all the coconutty goodness, and the natural oils in the coconut keeps the grains of couscous separate.  With just one simple swap, you’ve imparted so much flavor and moisture to a side that can tend to be a little dry and neglected—and most people haven’t had couscous cooked in coconut milk before, so that’s an added perk.

I love this meal because it’s so healthy, so interesting, and so, so easy.  It’s ready in 15 minutes, in just one pot (okay, and one baking sheet, but I line it with parchment for easy cleanup).  I’d make extras because the leftovers are killer cold over spinach salad.

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Blackened Salmon with Crunchy Coconut Couscous
serves 2

Blackened Salmon with Coconut CouscousINGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (1 can)
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous (regular or whole wheat)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh scallion (about 1 big scallion)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 5 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 2 4- to 6-ounce fillets of boneless and skinless salmon
  • 1 tablespoon blackening seasoning (recommended: Blackened Redfish Magic)
  • Lemon or lime wedges (optional)

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Bring the coconut milk to a boil in a medium stockpot.  Add the couscous and season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pot, remove from the heat, and let stand 10 minutes.  Finally, stir in the scallion, parsley, mint, and pumpkin seeds.

Meanwhile, while the couscous is steaming, season both sides of the salmon with blackening seasoning.  Place the fish on a parchment lined baking sheet, and roast for 10 to 12 minutes, until opaque.  Make a bed of the couscous, place the fish on top, tear up some extra mint leaves for garnish, and serve with lemon wedges (optional).

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Chorizo Crusted Cod and Beans with Arugula Pesto for Two

RECIPE: Chorizo Crusted Cod and Beans with Arugula Pesto
Cod with Chorizo and Beans with Arugula Pesto

Cod with Chorizo and Beans with Arugula Pesto

This recipe is the perfect example of how a few killer ingredients can make a gorgeously creative and delicious dish without much going on in the way of effort.

The concept is simple: use chorizo, so full of garlic and paprika and its own natural drippings, to flavor the rest of the dish.  So, I cut slices of dried, brilliantly red Spanish chorizo and layer them on top of a piece of cod.  Here’s a chef’s trick: add a little olive oil to a small nonstick skillet on the stove.  Place the fish, chorizo side up, in the hot pan and then put the whole thing in the oven.  That way you have the chorizo crisping from the heat of the oven, and the bottom of the fish forming a golden crust from the heat of the pan.
After ten minutes, the fish is done, and the chorizo has rendered out its precious flavor into the bottom of the pan.  That’s when I stir in canned cannellini beans, and heat them through in the drippings, to capture every last milligram of flavor.  Then I stir in a simplified, easy basil and arugula pesto made with Pecorino cheese, a sharp sheep’s milk cheese that slightly mirrors the saltiness of Manchego and works so well with the chorizo.  However, if tonight is not the night for using the food processor, just pick up some fresh basil pesto from the supermarket when you buy the fish.  And don’t feel bad about it.  The cheese melts, and the greens cling to the beans.  The whole thing looks so beautiful, and is so impressive.  And yet, the hardest thing in this recipe is arranging the chorizo on top of the cod.
Of course, as per the title of this column, when I test these recipes, I test them for two after work in my real life.  Mr. English was on a business trip, so I saved all the food, wrapped it up, and took it to work for lunch with my colleague and friend.  I had never cooked for him before, and was nervous.  In the end, I think this was the perfect dish to start with.  It’s one that looks like you really know what you’re doing, but also just has real flavor, and that’s a nice couple of attributes for something so easy to make. Continue reading
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Crispy Seared Cod with Peas, Pancetta, and Wilted Lettuce

RECIPE: Crispy Seared Cod with Petits Pois à la Française
Petits Pois à la Française with Cod

Petits Pois à la Française with Cod

Petits Pois à la Française, or French peas, is a very traditional and somewhat unusual dish. There are many iterations, as is to be expected with an old-school French dish. In my version, I start with a little bit of pancetta, add the peas and some parsley, and finish it off with just a dollop of crème fraîche. But the one ingredient that all versions have, including mine, is lettuce—chopped sucrine lettuce, thrown in to wilt at the last second. It’s not conventional, but it’s delicious. The lettuce stems retain their crunch and the leaves just start to wilt into the creamy sauce. It lightens up the whole dish and allows the dish to achieve that perfect balance we’re always desperately hunting for in French cooking.

Usually these peas are served as a side, but I make it into dinner by searing fillets of cod and mounding them on top of the peas. There’s a heartiness to it, but between the flaky fish and the extreme vegetal nature of the peas, it’s light and lively. A must try!
Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!
Crispy Seared Cod with Petits Pois à la Française
serves 4

Petits Pois à la Française with CodINGREDIENT

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 6-ounce fillets of cod
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 4 cups thawed frozen peas
  • 1 head of baby gem lettuce, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche

PROCEDURE

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Season the cod with salt and pepper.  When the oil shimmers, place the cod presentation-side-down in the hot skillet.  Sear for 4 to 5 minutes, until the fish takes on a nice golden crust.  Then turn over, and finish cooking for 1 minute.  Take the skillet off the heat, and remove the cod to a plate.  Set aside.

Add the pancetta to the same skillet, and return to medium-high heat.  Brown the pancetta until it starts to become crisp—2 to 3 minutes.  Add in the peas and warm through, stirring often.  Add 2 tablespoon of water, the lettuce, the parsley, and the crème fraîche.  Stir over the heat until the crème fraîche has melted and the lettuce is just beginning to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper.

To plate, make a bed of the peas.  Top with the cod.  Garnish with parsley.  I recommend good crusty bread on the side.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and Peas

RECIPE: Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and Peas
Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and Peas

Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and Peas

I love little tricks of the trade that make me feel like I’ve got something for nothing.  This dish cooks in 10 minutes, and looks like I’ve gone to a really high falutin’ Italian restaurant.  Why?  Because I bought fresh lasagna sheets at the store and “made” my pasta myself by cutting it by hand.  The pasta looks rustic and grandma-worthy, when all I had to do was boil it for five minutes, and stir it together with the world’s simplest sauce: ricotta cheese, and some of the water from the pasta pot.  Garnished with bright peas, fresh anise-y, sweet basil, and bursting cherry tomatoes, it’s the perfect really last minute, need-to-eat gourmet dinner for two.  Just creamy enough to be comforting, but light from all those fresh summer flavors.  This one does you proud—in one pot and ten minutes.

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and Peas
serves 2

Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and PeasINGREDIENTS

  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10 1/2 ounces fresh lasagna sheets
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • Parmesan or Pecorino for grating

PROCEDURE

Preheat the broiler.  Place the tomatoes on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Season with salt.  Broil for 5 minutes.  Set aside.

Cut the lasagna sheets into thick “noodle” strips.  Cook in boiling salted water until al dente—about five minutes.  Add the frozen peas 1 minute before the end of cooking.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain.

Add the ricotta, basil, and 1/2 cup of pasta water to the pot.  Stir to combine.  Add in the drained pasta and peas, and the roasted tomatoes and any juice they have rendered.  Season with salt and pepper.  Loosen with more pasta water if necessary.  Serve, and top with grated Parmesan or Pecorino.  A green salad goes perfectly alongside.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian