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

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19 Responses

  1. Katie – I loved the roasted broccoli. The kids didn’t care for it so much. I may have SLIGHTLY overcooked it. I may try again and cook 5 min less.

    Thanks for the tip on creme fraiche!!!

  2. Emily, I’ve heard good things about Whole Foods fish. For a dish like this, I might be tempted to spend the $$$. It was good, but would have been phenomenal with better fish.

  3. I love to cook but I love to cook simple.. I have some nice cookbooks that I hardly ever crack open because I want to just throw a few things together and eat.. So I am with you. Sounds like it was good though 🙂

  4. Wish I had seen your Twitter Convo to help out!

    You can indeed sub sour cream. Also, to make your own creme fraiche, combine 1 cup of nonultrapasteurized heavy cream and 1 Tbs. buttermilk in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until just lukewarm. Pour into a bowl, cover loosely and let stand at room temperature until thickened, 8 to 48 hours or more. Chill before using.

    I saw some fingerling potatoes at Costco. I think I’ll pick some up next time because that recipe looks yum yum!

    How was the roasted broccoli?

  5. This is just the sort of thing that happens to me, too! I feel like some of the most common FN ingredients are impossible to find in real life!

  6. I applaud your adventures in the kitchen. I still can’t look at a turkey without dryheaving after the last two Thanksgiving meals I tried to prepare… both spoiled… I can’t even imagine trying to handle fish.

  7. That makes me laugh. I just tried a new recipe last week. I didnt have to search that hard. I was searching for capers. No one at my store knew what they were. Luckily it wasn’t a big deal just to leave them out of the recipe. I later learned what they were and what part of the store to buy them in.

  8. Oh how I love the Barefoot Contessa! I am constantly boring my friends with “Well, the Barefoot Contessa this, the Barefoot Contessa that…” And come on, if you lived in the Hamptons with loads of money and no kids at home it WOULD have been the easiest meal to prepare! Have you made her mac ‘n cheese yet? To DIE for! But don’t count the calories…

  9. We have creme fraiche here in most supermarkets! Did not think it would be a hard-to-find ingredient in US.

    Please you please warn me when I click on your blog that there are will be dead fish eyes looking at me – bleuugghhhh!

    Thanks 🙂

    Glad all your effort was not in vain.

  10. Outside of Top Chef I’ve never known a *real* person to use creme fraiche, so I’m impressed! Although I just wrote a post about my aversion to seafood, so the fish eye picture made me scroll down to the story a little faster. 🙂 Your kids are lucky to get such diverse dinners! Enjoy your day.

  11. I love fish – we have it at least once a week and A will even eat it. I have to confess that I don’t cook it though – TK4 does all of the cooking. However, can I just say that you picture – ewwww.

  12. This is why I love being Southern. I think it’s the most basic and best food in the world. As long as you got a potato, rice, or biscuit? Your meal is complete. When it starts getting all fancy? I start to panic and just have to walk away.

    Kudos to you for pulling together what sounds like an amazing meal!

  13. Oh my goodness, Jo-Lynne, those fish totally creeped me out! No offense to the guy who took the picture, of course. I just really, REALLY don’t like fish!

    However, I’m quite impressed that you made a Food Network dinner – way to go!

  14. Sara, I do know what you mean. I thought perhaps it was b/c the fish was thinner than it should have been. And also, I didn’t mind it drowning in sauce. I loved the sauce! 🙂

  15. I have made this recipe as well (had to go to specialty store for creme fraiche) but I found it a bit drowned in the sauce? Hmmm not a usual Ina hit in our house.

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