Fish Tales


I’m telling you, THIS is why I’ve lost interest in cooking beyond slapping hamburgers on the grill or whipping up a batch of pancakes for dinner.  True confessions: I am a Food Network addict, although I rarely make any of the food I drool over as the experts prepare it in their pristine kitchens with their shiny cookware and their perfect makeup and their gourmet ingredients that never have a blemish in sight.

But every once in a while I feel inspired, and one of those nights was when I watched Ina Garten, a.k.a. Barefoot Contessa, make what she promised was the fastest, easiest dinner EVER — Mustard-Roasted Fish, Dill Fingerling Potatoes, and Parmesan Roasted Broccoli.  Sound good?  I KNOW!  But here’s the thing.  Fast and easy does NOT mean cheap or accessible.  Trying to make this dinner sent me on a goose chase far and wide and I STILL substituted ingredients to make it all come together.

First, just try finding creme fraiche at the grocery store.  Go ahead.  Just for fun, try calling around to all the grocery stores in your area and see what I mean.  JUST TO MAKE A PAN OF FISH.  Sheesh.  My knight in shining armor, a.k.a. my husband, came to my rescue by stopping at Trader Joes on his way home from work where he actually found the elusive creme fraiche!  That’s after I had a 20-minute Twitter conversation about what to substitute for the rare ingredient.  (In case you’re wondering, suggestions ranged from sour cream to heavy cream mixed with lemon to buttermilk mixed with something-or-other; oh my, I lost track.  And you can see WHY.)

I had to substitute baby new potatoes for fingerling potatoes because evidently you can only find fingerling potatoes when you are NOT looking for them.  (I feel like I see them all the time, but not THIS week.)

And then when I went to get the red snapper that my buddy Ina recommends for this dish, I THOUGHT I had struck gold when staring at me from the fish case at the first grocery store I visited were TWO whole red snappers.  But the fish monger (can you even call the teenager behind the fish counter at the Superfresh a fish monger?) looked at me funny when I asked if he could filet it for me.  He was like, “Yeah, I can do that, but there won’t be a whole lot of meat on it.”

Um, hello, isn’t that what you DO to fish?

Instead of inquiring further like an intelligent consumer, I just told him to go ahead with it.  I came home with $16-worth of mangled red snapper filets.  They look like he tried to cut them with a butter knife.  And they weren’t deboned.  But I pressed on and made the dish.

And you know, it didn’t turn out half bad in the end.  The bones weren’t as much of a problem as I had feared.  I liked the sauce, and my 3-year-old kept asking for “mo chicken” so I consider that moderate success.  The other kids turned their noses up at the capers and the sauce as a whole, but I’m of the philosophy that it’s good for them to try new things and to eat what we’re eating so that won’t prevent me from making it again.  Next time, however, I am going to a REAL fish market.  And I’ll be sure to stock up on creme fraiche the next time I’m at Trader Joes.

Photo credit: Bruce Lee