Lately we’re especially in the mood for easy. Jumping back into post-summer real life is always busy, and this fall it seems to be downright relentless. We’re running all over the place, fighting off colds, taking care of about four too many things on any given day, and trying to get things under control before the holidays hit (oh, they’re coming—just turn on your TV during any commercial break), when all we really want to do is curl up on a couch piled with snacks and books, and watch a day’s worth of movies buried under a mile of blankets. But just because we don’t feel like spending too much time on too complicated dishes, doesn’t mean we’re willing to sacrifice a satisfying meal. One of our go-to ingredients for fastest, simplest, tastiest dinners: fish.
Fish cooks in a flash. It feels a little special in spite of its I-just-threw-this-together level of ease, and makes for a totally healthy meal, which means you’re left feeling happy and pleased with yourself, instead of bummed and gross the way you might after, say, dinner #3 from the same cold leftover takeout you had last weekend. Plus, there are so many varieties, you’d be hard-pressed to get bored with it.
One of our favorites: trout.
Trout is a fish that everyone’s heard of, but not everyone’s actually eaten. Which is a mistake! We went for years thinking that trout wasn’t something we’d be into. We were so. very. wrong. (A rarity, we’re sure.)
Trout is delicious—un-fishy but flavorful (a balance that isn’t always easy to find)—incredibly healthy, and super economical (again, not always the case with fish—especially the healthiest ones).
We always buy wild-caught, but great news: new sustainable farming techniques are making farm-raised trout safe and healthy to eat. This means it’s both more available and more affordable. (Just check that the fish you’re buying is sustainably farmed.) Of course, if you can get wild-caught trout: awesome. Get it. It’s a lot easier to find in some parts of the country than others. We had some outrageously good, locally-caught, wild smoked trout in upstate New York last week. It was amazing. We’re still not over it. But if you can’t find the wild stuff, check out the sustainably farmed options.
The perfect accompaniment to trout’s mellow flavor: rainbow chard. Its gorgeous color will pep things up, and its flavor and fiber will fill you up happily. The pair makes a one nice plate together. So simple, but so good. Side perk: just like trout, chard is really, really good for you, making this one kick-ass easy meal. Fast, delicious, healthy, inexpensive, and a looker to boot: That’ll definitely do the trick, won’t it?
Though this meal is super satisfying on its own, if you want to serve it with some bread or a little something else in addition (farro or polenta would both be awesome, as would roasted potatoes), it’s really easy to find any number of things that would go tastily alongside.
Even the most sluggish of nights just got a whole lot better. (Don’t forget the wine!)
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Pan Fried Trout with Rainbow Chard
Note: We love rainbow chard for its color, but if you can’t find it, regular chard is just fine.
– One large bunch of chard or two smaller ones (enough for 2 people—remember, it will cook way down)
– One large shallot, finely chopped
– 1 tbs white or red wine vinegar
– Small pinch of sugar
– Sea/kosher salt and black pepper to taste
* Give the chard a rinse and a soak to clean. Drain but don’t dry. Trim ends and separate stalks from leaves. (You’ll cook them separately since the stalks are more fibrous and will take longer to cook.)
* Cut the stems into bite size pieces and roughly chop leaves.
* Over medium-low heat, warm a large sauté pan and 1 tbs olive oil. Add the shallots. Stirring, cook until translucent—don’t brown. Add a little salt and pepper, and cook a few seconds more.
* Add the stalks. Cook and stir about 5 minutes until they begin to soften.
* If the pan seems dry, add a bit more olive oil.
* Add the chopped leaves in two batches. Put the first batch in and cover for a few minutes. Once it has wilted, add the remaining leaves. Stir and cover again, stirring occasionally until the leaves and stalks are tender. If there isn’t enough steam in the pan to cook the leaves, add a little bit of water—maybe a tablespoon.
* Uncover and add the vinegar along with a really small pinch of sugar. Stir and cook for another minute or two. Season to taste. Remove the chard to a bowl and keep warm.
* Rinse out the sauté pan. When ready to cook the trout, put the pan back on the stove over medium-low heat.
Pan Fried Trout
– 2 trout fillets
– 1/2 tbs olive oil
– 1/2 tbs butter + another small pat (about 1/4 tbs)
– 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
– Juice of one large lemon
– 1 tbs fresh parsley, finely chopped
* Pat the trout dry with a paper towel, then season with salt and pepper.
* Add the olive oil and butter to the sauté pan. Swirl to blend. Add the garlic and parsley. When fragrant, raise the heat to medium.
* Add the fish to the pan, flesh side down over the garlic and parsley. Cook about 3–4 minutes.
* Gently flip the trout and cook, skin side down, for an additional 3–4 minutes until it begins to flake and has turned opaque. Remove to serving plates.
* Now you’re going to make a little sauce for the fish: Turn heat on the pan down to low. Add the remaining pat of butter and the lemon juice. Scrape up the brown bits and season to taste. Spoon over the plated trout.
* Garnish with additional parsley and plate with the chard. Serve with a nice glass of white wine!
© 2015 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved