Monday, November 2, 2009

oven poached fish with lemon and thyme

Is it just me, or does the time change make everything feel that much more complicated? Until driving home from work today, I had forgotten how much I hate that early darkness, that feeling that the only daylight hours are those spent at work. Dora has been resisting bedtime lately, and even before the time change, the evenings were getting dark earlier. I have had very little time lately to think about new recipes, let alone try them out while photographing their progress and the results. Now that it is fully dark by the time I get home from work, I'm not sure how I'll post a food blog mid-week - unless it's like this one, with photographs of other things and notes on a successful meal, with no images of the actual food in question. I guess I'm not ready to strip the word "food" from my blog subtitle yet, but I'm feeling a bit like a phony today, with leftover rotisserie chicken resting in the refrigerator.

I just returned from nearly a week in the coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina, first in Savannah and then in Folly Beach. I love fresh seafood - won't pass up that chance to have some - so I had a lot of seafood on this trip. I had some mediocre seafood - overpriced, touristy food, teeny-tiny scallops and flavorless hushpuppies. I also had some truly delicious meals, including a delightful bowl of shrimp and grits at Vic's on the River in Savannah, pictured below. Perhaps it was because this was our first "vacation" meal following a long-separation from family and nearly a week of meetings and late-night projects, but this meal was absolutely heavenly.

We spent our weekend in Folly Beach sharing a house with the members of the wedding and party band that Brian plays keyboards with, Orange Krush. Saturday night, while the band was at their gig, I made dinner for the other wives and girlfriends who had come on the trip. It was great to have their help watching Dora while I made oven poached black grouper with lemon and thyme, garlic steamed green beans, and new potatoes with butter and parsley. I loved the opportunity to make a nice meal for other people again, even if the kitchen was poorly equipped. The ladies thoroughly enjoyed the meal so I thought it was worth sharing, even if I don't have any photographs of it.

Oven Poached Black Grouper with Lemon and Thyme (serves 4)

1 1/4 pounds skinless fresh fish fillets
several Tablespoons unsalted butter
dry white wine
3 - 4 fresh thyme sprigs, rinsed, patted dry, and leaves stripped off
4 - 6 lemon slices, seeds removed, plus half a lemon for squeezing

Preheat the oven to 375. Arrange the fish fillets in a single layer in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with slices of butter, sprinkle with thyme leaves, and distribute lemon slices evenly over fish. Squeeze lemon half over fish and add dry white wine to pan until fish is surrounded by about 1/4 in of liquid (amount needed varies depending on size of pan). Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 25 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish fillets. (Note: I made this recipe in an oven in a rental house that did not seem to hold the temperature on its thermostat. I had it set at 425 when I made this fish, but it felt much cooler than that. The oven temp and the baking time are dependent on the type of fish you use, thickness of the fillets, how many times you peek in, etc. Check the fish frequently and remove as soon as it is opaque and flakes easily.)

To serve, discard lemon slices and serve fish drizzled with a bit of the sauce from the pan. Serve with the remaining dry white wine and follow with an hour or so of friendly conversation around the dinner table. Hopefully the warmth of that circle of conversation and a shared meal will help you forget about the early nightfall.

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