I’m determined to have family dinner with real, home cooked food most nights. I’ve read a lot of articles lately that describe family dinner as a thing of the past and downplay its importance. It’s probably true that family time doesn’t have to be around the table but still, family dinner is important to me. I grew up eating both breakfast and dinner with my family and I want to do the same now that I have a family of my own. My son already expects it. The other day when he walked in and I was upstairs instead of in the kitchen he gave me a funny look and said “You’re not cooking dinner?” Of course, all kinds of thoughts started racing through my mind. Mostly, what am I teaching him about gender roles that he always expects me to be cooking when he gets home? But also, isn’t it nice that he expects a home-cooked meal every single evening? Isn’t it nice that dinner is part of his daily routine? That he loves to drag his little sister to the table shouting “Dinnertime!!!”? So I resolved to be mindful of what I’m teaching my kids about gender roles but not to stop cooking. Also, for the sake of honesty, my little guy does ask me “if we are having friends over” whenever he sees me cleaning.
Now that I'm back at work, fish is my weeknight weapon. It’s so hard to cook a proper meal (and wait for a proper meal to cook) at the end of a long day when everyone is tired and hungry. But fish cooks in minutes and the whole family, thankfully, LOVES it.
When we were in Ireland, I noticed that a lot of people don’t eat fish or shellfish despite the natural abundance of seafood in the region. I thought this was quite odd and probably just my (mis)perception of things. But recently I read that, for the last few centuries, the Irish have indeed eaten well below the European average of seafood. This is thought to be due to the association of seafood with religious fasting. In addition, Ireland has historically had a primarily cattle based economy and seafood, especially shellfish, was associated with being poor. Of course all this is changing now as so many of us are growing to appreciate the natural bounty of the region and Irish chefs continue to embrace and popularize local food products. Lucky for me, because I intend to keep seafood on my regular weeknight rotation and am always looking for new recipes.
I made this one up with the help of Arctic char on sale at my local Whole Foods, my garden and my sweet baby who slept for even longer than the 20 minutes it took me to throw this one together.
Arctic Char with Almond Gremolata
Feeds 2 adults and 2 hungry toddlers or 3 adults; A slightly larger filet would easily feed 4 adults
A handful of roasted, salted almonds (or whatever nuts you have on hand, pecans, pistachios or walnuts would all work well)
½ shallot, diced finely
1 handful of Italian flat leaf parsley
1 handful of basil leaves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (I used a new high quality EVOO that I just bought from the Olive Tap, right next to Paddy’s on the Square. They have such a nice store, check out next time you are in Long Grove.)
Juice and zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Arctic char filet (about 1lb)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Prepare the gremolata by dicing the shallot finely, chopping the nuts and herbs to your desired coarseness/fineness and placing in a small bowl. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and set aside.
For the fish, heat a large skillet or saute pan to medium high and add vegetable oil until smoking. Season the filet generously with salt and pepper and place it in the hot pan skin side down for 2-3 minutes until crispy and golden on the bottom. Flip the filet and cook about 2 minutes more until fish is cooked through, taking care not to overcook the fish. I try to make sure the internal temperature of the thickest part of the filet does not go over 145F but this comes down to personal preference. I always eat the thickest part because my husband prefers his cooked just a little bit more.
We ate this so fast I didn’t even take a photo - which is why I chose to post more photos of Irish Days instead (which was SO MUCH FUN!). Too bad because Paul even commented on how pretty it was. If you would like a visual, I know I always do, it looks something like this, which was actually my inspiration for the dish.