Mary Cooks: The Easiest Fish Ever

There's been surprisingly little cooking going on at my house. It all started last Sunday. My counterpart and I were feeling industrious after taking down the shed the previous weekend and set about clearing the yard. We sprung for a professional one-handed chain saw (which I have dubbed Bruce) to help remove creeper and dead tree limbs that would otherwise be out of reach with a heavier, two-handed saw. Things overhead. One such dead limb came crashing down, bounced off the ground, and hit my beloved right in the kisser.  I did what any good wife would do. I put a bag of frozen peas on his face and drove him to the ER.  Luckily, there was no concussion, no infection, no lost teeth. Just teeth that were very very loose. Seven stitches, two Percacets, and a tetanus shot later, he was ready to go home. But not ready to eat anything

This past week, he's been on an antibiotic and a pain killer while he heels. And it wasn't so bad food-wise, really. Monday I had left overs. The rest of the week I had something or other going on after work, and didn't really miss dinner. Then the weekend rolled around. We're getting by on ham and cheese sandwiches on squishy white bread which Gareth cuts into bite-sized pieces for himself. But by this afternoon, I wanted an actual meal and decided to fend for myself.

Without Gareth's tastes to consider, I was free to cook whatever I wanted. And what I wanted was fish. We usually have a big bag of tilapia from Walmart in the freezer. That, some rice, a vegetable medley, and a little sauce sounded like dinner to me.

First I prepped my veg as this always takes the longest. I used leek, kohlrabi, and zucchini. After I cut the veg, I put my skillet on to preheat.

Veggies prepped

Then I started the rice.The very best way to cook rice is in a Korean rice cooker. If you cook a lot of rice and you do not have one of these, get to the nearest Asian grocery and buy one. One cup water + one cup rice + a splash of oil, a splash of half and half, a little salt and pepper = perfect rice in 20 minutes.

My Korean rice cooker - the best kitchen appliance ever

OK, so here's the easiest fish ever. Place a wire rack inside a heavy skillet (not a non-stick skillet). Pat the fish fillets and place on the rack. Drizzle a little oil over them, and dust them with salt and pepper. Place them in the broiler and check on them every so often until they are done. Cooking times will vary by the variety of fish. When they comes out of the over, squeeze a little fresh citrus juice on them - lemon or lime, or even orange if you're feeling daring. You really can't mess this up unless you get clever or creative. Don't. Just keep it simple and it will work.

Fish on a rack, lightly seasoned and ready for the broiler

And this is what it looks like when it's done

While my fish was in the broiler, I sauteed my vegetables in olive oil with a little salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime juice. I waited until they were nearly cooked before attacking the most challenging part of the meal - the sauce. And tonight I was determined to move beyond the unremarkable pasty sauce I usually create into something creamy and flavorful. To achieve this feat, I did everything wrong.

Veg almost done - time to start the sauce

The defining feature of my Unremarkable Sauce is its paste-like quality. Gluten being the main ingredient in paste, I reasoned that omitting the flour would remove this attribute. I started with half a cup of stock which I heated slowly on the stove top. I then added potato starch to thicken it. A little half and half, a little butter, some pepper, some paprika, and I almost had something. I heated up some wine in a separate pan to cook the alcohol off and added that at the end.

This sauce was truly remarkable - remarkably lucky

What I got was certainly remarkable. The remark I made about it was it didn't taste like paste. Unfortunately, it didn't taste particularly good. Not until I put it on the vegetable medley. Then it tasted like part of the meal, something deliberate, and not like the happy accident it actually was.

Fish with some rice, a vegetable medley, and a little non-pasty sauce

As I was cleaning up, I thought that really that was no way to make a sauce, that I should be able to do a decent job at that part of the meal at this point. And then I thought of the proper solution to my sauce issues - emulsification. If I can't work with flour, there's always egg yolk. And there's always tomorrow.