Whiting Fish with Capers, Mustard, and Lemon

I don't know if you agree, but I think it's the glum January weather that makes everything in life seem a little more dull - or maybe it's the mysterious French cynicism that tells you to not even try to be happy or successful, just give up and have a coffee or a piece of stinky cheese. Whatever the reason, I have been trying to put some spice back into my daily routine, which I have somewhat accomplished by inviting more friends over for good wine, good food, and usually good conversation (sometimes there are bad eggs, no pun intended, but that is only to be expected).  I made this recipe for my friend Diana last week, who so enjoyed the tangy lemon sauce, as did I, that I decided to make it for myself again tonight.

I stumbled upon a similar version of this recipe in a French cookbook I have come to love, Les Secrets de Cuisine des Soeurs Scotto, written by three sisters who grew up in Italy and now live in France. I had the good fortune of working with one of the three chef sisters, Elisabeth Scotto, while I was interning at Elle magazine here in Paris.  Elisabeth's good energy and passion for simple, fresh, and delicious food are extremely contagious, and I found working with her to be a highlight of my stay so far in Paris. The recipes in the book are a mix of French and Italian fare, like their origins, and I just love the flavor combinations they come up with.

The fish I used is merlan, or whiting in english.  It is a fish that is cultivated in the Atlantic, but you can substitute whiting with any other flaky white fish, such as hake or cod.  If you love lemons like myself you will surely like this recipe.  I adore this tart fruit in all forms, either plain with sea salt or all dressed up in lemon meringue pie (although my favorite dessert will always be moelleux au chocolat, a chocolate apex of simplicity and refinement).

This recipe is really straightforward so I don't need to give you any advice or tips, just enjoy.  With Diana I served this fish with a celeri-rave puree that I had thinned out with milk, and tonight, because I have been eating far more much foie gras and cheese in this gastronomical mecca than I care to admit even to myself, I made some lighter fare to accompany my fish: braised leeks.  I'll include the recipe for the leeks in case you're trying to keep it light like me.

Happy belated new year everyone, I hope one of your resolutions is to cook more good food!  You certainly deserve the best.

One final note: I know some people have tried to post comments but have had a really hard time.  I apologize about that - I think I've managed to make it easier, but would you mind me letting me know, maybe just be shooting me an email, if you're still having problems?  Thanks, bisous!

Whiting Fish with Capers, Mustard, and Lemon - serves 1

1 lemon
1 tablespoon or less of olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 whiting fillets, about 300grams/10 ounces total
1 tbsp butter
1 tablespoon capers, dried
1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1. Cut the lemon in half.  Squeeze one half and keep the juice.  Cut one thin slice from the other half, and cut into little triangles, following the lemon's natural pith. (If making the leeks, cut a second lemon thin lemon slice).
2.  Pour some olive oil onto a paper towel, and rub it all over a medium to large skillet (big enough to hold both fillets)
3.  Heat the skillet over medium heat, and add the fish.  Cover, and cook until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
4.  Meanwhile, make the yummy sauce: in a small skillet, heat the butter over medium-low heat.  Add the capers, lemon juice and triangles, mustard, and 1 tablespoon parsley.  Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper.  Add more of any ingredient you would like until you are happy with it.
5.  Place the fish on a plate and serve topped with the sauce, and additional chopped parsley.

Buonnnn appetito!!

Easy Braised Leeks - serves 1
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek
1 thin lemon slice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1.  Cut off the root and dark green stalks from the leek. Cut in half cross-wise, then cut each half into quarters length-wise (you want thin strips). Wash and pat dry. 
2.  Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the leeks, parsley, lemon slice, and water.  Stir to combine.  Cover, and cook until leeks are very softened, stirring occasionally, about 12-15 minutes. 
3.  Season with salt and pepper.


Eliza said...

I have cooked leeks before but they always turned out gritty. How do you get all the grit out of them?? I love them, but never cook them at home any more.

Ashley Fahr said...

It's interesting because in France the leeks are much cleaner, and don't require too much work to get them clean.

If your leeks are gritty though, here is what I suggest:
Cut off the root and dark green part as usual, peel off the outer layer of the leek, and once you have cut it into quarters, break the layers apart with your hands, place them in a colander, and rinse very well. Rub them in your hands to make sure the grit comes off. It's ok if the leeks are still a little wet when you cook with them, they actually need water to soften.

I hope this helps! Have a great day.

Erin K! said...

This looks like the chicken you made us on Thursday night! Which makes me happy, because now I have the recipe for that amaaazing meal!

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