Cod Almondine, Spinach in Almond Cream and Lemon Sauce

Fish Almondine is a classic dish. Usually made with trout. The fish is floured and sauteed in brown butter with almonds. The sauce is finished in the pan with lemon juice and parsley. It’s delicious and that’s what was for dinner tonight…sort of. This dish loosely based on one from the Rich Table restaurant book has all the elements and flavors of the classic Almondine with a few really nice twists.

The book recipe makes a pureed sorrel sauce as a sharp contrast to the fish. Instead of that I made a lemon sauce based on Italian lemon Marmellata that is awesome with any fish dish. I wanted it refined rather that rustic and chunky (usually it is like a relish). So, I pureed whole lemons in my Vitamix with olive oil, a pinch of salt a pinch of chile flakes and some sugar along with some water to get a smooth sauce with the texture of a loose mayonnaise.

Sauteed spinach is a pretty good light accompaniment to fish. Toasted almonds are frequently added to it. To make it more interesting and special (this was a birthday dinner after all) it is amped up with more almond flavor in the form of almond cream. To make the cream I simmered 3 cups of almond milk and a 1/4 cup heavy cream together until they were reduced to about 2/3 of a cup and became thick. Interesting thing, store bought almond milk has some salt in it. So by the time the whole thing is reduced the cream was pretty well seasoned. Good thing I tasted and noticed before adding any salt!

I sauteed shallots and garlic in butter and added fresh spinach leaves. The spinach cooked in the pan for only a couple of minutes until wilted. Then I chopped it coarsly and added it to the almond cream. This was re-heated when ready to serve.

With the sauce done and the spinach good to go the dinner was easy to finish. As usual, I had brined the fish in a 10% salt water solution for 15 minutes, rinsed it and patted it dry. Even though the original recipe called for trout and the store had some very nice steelhead trout I really wanted a thick white flaky fish today. They had fantastic cod. So I went with that.

Cooking the fish is more or less a classic method for this type of dish. I dredged the fish in flour and cooked it in olive oil till very well browned on one side. I flipped the fish, added some brown butter to the pan and slipped the whole thing into a 400 F oven for about 10 minutes. I basted the fish with the butter and juices about half way through. When I took the fish out of the oven I threw in sliced almonds (these were toasted in butter earlier as the butter was browning), fresh parsley and a good squeeze of lemon juice. The sauce is wonderful and with in a minute or two it gets emulsified into a nice consistency.

To plate it, I had the kids do the whole thing with some direction. They did a good job smearing the lemon sauce on the fancy plates, putting a clump of the spinach. Then a drizzle of the almond cream around the spinach and a piece of fish on top followed by the pan almond-lemon sauce. Everyone one really loved this dish and it will be worth a repeat, probably with trout next time around.

Salmon, Collard Greens, Roasted Beets and Smokey Orange Dressing

Dish 2 of the “January Trilogy” of light dinners features salmon.

Salmon-Collards-Beets

My preferred method to cook salmon fillets by far is using low temperature sous vide. It’s a process I wrote about before that includes brining the fish for a short time, bagging it with a little olive oil and cooking it at no more than 52 C for about 20 minutes. To finish I crisp the skin side in a hot pan with oil.

The salad is made from collard greens and roasted beets. It is loosely based on some ideas from Salad Samurai, a pretty useful and inspiring vegan salad-focused book. The beets are roasted wrapped in aluminum foil until fork tender. Collards are tough greens and usually are only eaten cooked. They actually work very well raw as well though. I “relaxed” the hearty greens by rubbing them with some salt, cider vinegar ad olive oil. This wilts them a bit but leaves them with plenty of snap. After that they can be left in the fridge for several days ready to toss into salads, omelettes, pastas…This works great with kale as well which is what the original recipe uses.

Salmon-Collards-Beets2

The dressing is a lovely warm smokey orange vinaigrette prepared with smoked paprika and orange juice. It has a beautiful color and a robust flavor that stands up great to the strong flavors of salmon, beets and collards. It’s a great combination of flavors and textures that make for a delicious winter salad.

Chicken, Butternut Squash, Carrot and White Wine-Creme Fraiche Dressing

It’s January, the month of resolutions, especially those diet-related ones. Most want to lose weight and get fit. To that end we got a variety of diets and fads that pick up. Some want to go Paleo or low-carb. Other misguided folks are still on the low or no fat bandwagon. Really ambitious dieters try their hand at a whole new lifestyle like vegetarian or vegan! In most cases it will all fade away in a few weeks and we are back to eating a lot of all the “wrong” stuff.

Well, I have no resolutions. I think they are silly and any claims of THE ONE DIET are ultimately useless and discouraging. That being said, we tried to take it easy this January since between November and December, the holidays and trips to Maine and Boston, we had a lot of rich carb-heavy food. Several nights in this month we went with a “salad” of some sort. Some were good straight-forward ones but nothing to document. Others were delicious, beautiful, satisfying and nutritious that were worth putting up here. Here is the first of the “January Trilogy” of light dinners.

Chicken-Squash-Carrots2

I had a few large chicken hind quarters from Yonder Way Farm. These are delicious for braising or very slow roasting on the grill or oven. In this case though I divided the drumstick from the large thighs. For this dish I de-boned the thighs and laid them flat on a cutting board as I rummaged in my fridge (I slow baked the drumsticks and slathered them in barbecue sauce if you must know).

As is my habit most times, I ended up with an Italian flavor profile for the chicken thighs. After seasoning them with salt I rolled them with garlic, shallots, rosemary, oregano and lemon zest into neat cylinders. These chicken thighs are from free range birds and they benefit from longer cooking. So, I cooked them sous vide at 66 C for about 4 hours. They were tender and perfectly juicy.

Chicken-Squash-Carrots

While the chicken cooked I roasted a cubed butternut squash along with a few cut up carrots. When the chicken was done, I patted them dry and browned the skin in the pan with olive oil till crispy. I made a nice warm sauce/dressing for the dish using reduced white wine with shallots. I added Dijon mustard and enriched it with creme fraiche and some of the reserved cooking juices from the bag.

Coming up next, Salmon, more chicken and an ancient grain…