Showing posts with label fish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fish. Show all posts

Friday, September 1, 2017

Gratin of Cod Irish Style

We got to our market very early this past week, and most of the fish hadn't been put into the case. But they had some very nice local, never-frozen cod, and this is Massachusetts, where the gilded Sacred Cod hangs in the House of Representatives chamber the State House in Boston, so that's what we went with.

So what's Irish about this? I have, at last inventory, at least eight handsomely illustrated Irish cookbooks. One of them is Darina Allen's A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School, published in 1997. In case you've never heard of Darina Allen, she has been called "the Julia Child of Ireland," and she's the owner and head chef of the above-named cooking school, which just happens to be in County Cork. I'm saving my pennies to take a class there. But as it happens, she was at the Skibbereen Farmers Market a few weeks ago, so of course I introduced myself. I managed not to gush. (Sorry, no photos--I didn't wish to appear too much of a groupie.)

The fact that she was there, at a market nearly two hours from her home base, on a summer Saturday, is a tribute to the market. (I believe she was buying cheese.)

I found this recipe in her book. Of course I tweaked a few things, but luckily I had the ingredients on hand, including Kerrygold Irish cheese, and this is delightfully quick and simple to make and lets the fish speak for itself. (BTW, My husband approved with the first bite.)

As ever, I cut this recipe in half for the two of us, although I kept the original amount of sauce because, well, I like sauce. I also added the tarragon to the recipe, because I thought the tart taste would go well with the Dijon mustard, and I happened to have a bunch of fresh tarragon on hand.

And if anyone can explain to me how you divide a large fish fillet into similar-sized pieces that will cook evenly, I will be eternally grateful. At least in this recipe the sauce kind of insulates the fish pieces, so none were overcooked.

Gratin of Cod

Ingredients: (Note: original amounts given)

6 pieces of cod fillet (total 36 oz, 

   cut into 6 pieces)
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups grated aged Irish Cheddar cheese
1 Tblsp Dijon mustard
4 Tblsp heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking dish large enough to hold all the fish pieces in one layer.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Arrange the pieces in the dish in a single layer.

Grate the cheese. Mix it with the mustard and cream and tarragon and spread over the fish on both sides. (It can be prepared to this point and refrigerated.)

Ingredients, mixed

Ready for the oven
Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The top should be golden and bubbly.

Thank you, Darina--it was delicious. We'll be making it again. (And hope to see you again soon!)

Right now I'm between books: Cruel Winter (County Cork #5) was published last March (the sixth book in the series, Many a Twist, will appear in January 2018), and A Late Frost (Orchard Mystery #11) will come out in November. Which does not mean I am slacking off! I'll be launching the new Victorian Village series in June 2018, and I'm already writing the second in that series (no cover yet). I'll try to keep you up to date!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Easiest Baked Fish in the World

LESLIE: We usually eat fish once a week, and this is the easiest cooking method ever—except, of course, fish cooked by someone else! It checks all the boxes—it’s yummy, zesty, and pretty.

And it scores high on ease of prep and clean-up. It’s also a highly versatile method that works beautifully on just about any kind of firm white fish—cod, flounder, halibut, tilapia.

For some reason, as I was writing this, I found myself singing "'Swim,' said the mama fishy, 'fast as you can,' and he swam and he swam right over the dam!"

This is perfect with a green salad or asparagus, fresh rolls, and a glass of white wine! Singing optional.

(I seem to have misplaced the photo of the ingredients, so I'm giving you a shot of my new supervisor instead!)

The Easiest Baked Fish in the World

1-1/4 pounds firm white fish
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, thinly sliced.
1 tablespoon capers, optional
3 tablespoons melted butter
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend
(or substitute ½ cup Italian herbed breadcrumbs)
2-3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a glass or ceramic baking dish with parchment paper. Lay the fish fillets in the dish, in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the lemon slices on top, add the capers if you’re using them, and drizzle on the melted butter. Bake 12-15 minutes, until fish turns opaque in the center and cuts easily. Remove from oven. Mix the breadcrumbs and herbs together and sprinkle over the fish, then garnish with the parsley and serve.

Bon appetit!

The lemon slices are the eyes, and a bit of parsley fell off just right to be the nose...

From the cover of TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #4 (Midnight Ink, June 2017):  

Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident?or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher. 

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.

Friday, March 3, 2017


Betcha that title caught your eye, eh?

Blame it on the fish department at our supermarket: they slipped in a fish I’d never heard of. Yup, Sweetlips. 

Sweetlips, aka Plechtorhinchus, is a genus of grunts (oh, this just keeps getting better), which tends to live on coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific (Indonesia). They like to hang out with each other, or with other fish. One cool fact: their coloring and patterning change throughout their lives (google the images—there are some wonderful ones). Sounds like a pretty, friendly fish—with big fleshy lips.

[Note: most of the online articles cite their suitability for aquariums before considering them as food. Now I feel guilty about cooking it.]

But what was in the store was not a cute patterned fish with big lips, it was a mound of filets. Our favorite fish person did something smart: she sauteed a bunch with a marinade and handed out free bite-size samples. It tasted good! It’s a nice mild-flavored, slightly flaky fish, and holds together well when you cook it.

What the heck, we’re having sweetlips for dinner!

Sweetlip Filets with Asian Sauce

(this recipe should serve 4—as usual I cut it in half)


2 lbs sweetlip filets
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
3 Tblsp teriyaki sauce
2 Tblsp fish sauce
1 tblsp brown sugar

Oil for frying

If you’re craving a bit of spice, you can thinly slice a red chile and add that at the end, or sliced scallions for color. I didn’t have a fresh chile on hand, so I added a dash of some kind of red pepper sauce (that name was the only English on the label!).

What the heck, it
might taste good!


Heat the oil in a sautee pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened.

Add the teriyaki sauce, fish sauce, ginger and sugar and simmer for a few minutes until it thickens a little.

Add the fish filets to the pan (turn them in the pan to cover with the sauce), reduce the heat to low, and steam/simmer until the fish is cooked (the filets are thin, so it shouldn’t take long).

Garnish with the sliced chili and scallions if you’re using them. Serve with steamed rice and a green vegetable.

Eleven days and counting until the release of Cruel Winter, the fifth County Cork Mystery! (Will winter be over by then?)

What do you do when you're snowed in at a pub in Ireland? You talk, you drink, you make some music--and you solve an old murder.

Available for pre-order at Amazon ad Barnes and Noble. And still on sale!

(And coming soon--a major update for my website!)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Celery Root Remoulade

Do you watched the show Chopped on the Food Network? That’s the one where four contestants are handed mystery baskets of food items and told to make something yummy in twenty minutes. The results are judged by a panel of food critics and restauranteurs. In case you’re wondering where the hook is, the ingredients can by as weird and wonderful as marshmallows, pickles, frogs legs and peanut butter—and all of them must be used in the same dish. It’s cruel fun to watch the contestant cooks panic, but I must say I get a lot of ideas there.

I hold my own Chopped challenge at home. It’s been snowing around here a lot lately (oh, look, there it goes again), and I really don’t want to go to the local store because I don’t happen to have a lemon or six eggs. So I challenge myself: what can I make using only ingredients in my fridge, freezer or pantry?

What do I have now? Frozen mussels and leftover Thanksgiving turkey. A pair of quinces. A celery root. Some parsnips. A number of spices I can’t even identify, and at least a dozen kinds of salt. All the staples, of course—sugar, flour, butter, eggs, milk. Six kinds of rice, and as many kinds of pasta. Surely there’s a dish waiting to be made somewhere in there?

This is a celery root. Ugly, isn't it?
But somebody tried really hard to make
it sound appealing

Celery root seems to be the prime candidate—you know, that gnarly thing that stays underground while that cluster of nice green stalks rises above it. However, I wanted to skip the obvious choices like puree of celery root, or celery root soup, or celery root gratin, some of which involve combining the celery root with potatoes or even apples. Trolling through Epicurious, I came upon an old recipe from Gourmet magazine that involved celery root and sea scallops. Sorry no scallops, I don’t have any scallops on hand. But I do have a nice filet of fresh (never-frozen) American-caught haddock, which is a sturdy white fish. Bingo. Swap in the haddock for the scallops, and the celeriac goes into a pungent remoulade sauce—for which I actually have all the ingredients!

Haddock with Celery Root Remoulade

Remoulade Sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow pepper
1 Tblsp capers, drained and chopped
1 Tblsp Dijon mustard
1 Tblsp chopped shallot
1 Tblsp fresh tarragon, chopped
1-1/2 Tblsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1-lb celery root (aka celeriac)

Fish filets
Olive oil for sautéeing


Chop whatever needs chopping;

Mix together the sauce ingredients and season with salt and pepper. (The sauce can be made ahead and kept chilled.)

Sorry, it's still ugly

Peel the celery root (they’re lumpy critters!) and cut into matchsticks (okay, get real—I am not going to slice this thing into 1/8-inch sticks—I’ll settle for maybe 1/4-inch thickness). Add to the sauce and toss (taste for seasoning again and add salt and pepper if needed).

Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and saute the fish filet(s) until they’re cooked through. (I’ll admit, haddock seems to flake apart when you’re cooking it, so it doesn’t look very tidy.)

Serve on a plate with a mound of the remoulade alongside, and some kind of starch—I used pearl or Israeli couscous. Oops, everything on the plate seems to be white. Blame it on the snow.

As you can guess from the cover and the title, Cruel Winter takes place during a snowstorm. Don't worry--snow doesn't hang around in Ireland for very long. In this case, it's just long enough to solve an old murder. Maybe.

Coming March 14. You can pre-order it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And after March 14 I hope you can find it everywhere!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fish Filets with Mustard Sauce

(This recipe was adapted from The Seafood Cookbook: Classic to Contemporary, by Pierre Franey and Bryan Miller (1986))

I’ve been collecting recipes for a long time, and now they fill two large binders, one for savory recipes, the other for sweet. Note that the sweet recipes far outnumber the savory ones. Guess that tells you something.

These recipes come from all sorts of sources. One is a hand-scrawled recipe for lobster Cantonese, which I made with a group of friends in our college dorm circa 1970 (we kept the live lobsters in the bathtub on our floor until we were ready to start cooking). Some come from friends, like my easy chocolate mousse recipe, from a guy who dated a number of my roommates. I subscribed to both Bon Appetit and Gourmet for a number of years, and copied recipes I thought sounded good. Others I clipped from newspapers in several different states and carefully saved.

How many have I used? Maybe 20 percent. But every now and then I go rummaging for something different—and that’s where this recipe popped up in the Savory binder.

In our house we eat fish at least once a week, and white fish and salmon offer endless options for cooking and sauces. This rediscovered recipe was a happy surprise: while it dates for 1986, it’s reasonably health and quite quick and easy to prepare. Brilliant of me to save it for thirty years, right?

Fish Filets with Mustard Sauce

(note: this recipe serves four, but I reduced it for two at home)


3 Tblsp olive oil
6 skinless fish filets (you can use any firm-fleshed white fish), about 2 lbssalt and freshly ground pepper4 Tblsp Dijon mustard1/3 cup finely chopped shallots1 Tblsp minced garlic3/4 lb small fresh mushrooms2 tsp dry white wine4 Tblsp unsalted butterChopped parsley (optional)


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Select a baking pan large enough to hold the filets in one layer without crowding.

Pour the olive oil over the bottom of the pan. Turn the filets in the oil to coat, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and brush with mustard.

Scatter the shallots, garlic and mushrooms around the filets.

Place the baking pan on top of the stove and heat until the oil begins to sizzle. Add the wine and bring to a simmer.

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes (keep an eye on the filets—if they’re thin, you may not need to cook them this long, and you don’t want to overcook them). Baste, then return the pan to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes.

Remove the fish to a serving platter. Swirl the butter in the baking pan until it melts, the pour over the filets. (If you’re being health-conscious, you can omit the butter—there’s plenty of flavor from the other ingredients.)

Sprinkle with parsley if you like, then serve immediately.

It’s nice to see that some of the older recipes stand the test of time!

Oh, right, there's a book coming: Seeds of Deception, October 4th (soon!).

Yes, there are recipes--even sleuths have to eat. 

Waiting for you at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Citrus-Poached Fish

It has been hot here in Massachusetts lately. I do not have air-conditioning (I have lots of fans and windows that open on both sides of the house, but it’s not the same, believe me). And there’s a heat wave scheduled for today, and tomorrow, and . . .  So lately my thoughts have run to recipes that involve a minimum of heat to prepare.

Oh, all right, it's not Massachusetts. But this
is how it feels!

Sure, I could grill food outside, but for a few weeks it’s been only me at home (spouse has been gallivanting around the world to exotic places where other people prepare his food for him), and it seems a waste to stoke up the Weber to grill one pathetic piece of chicken.

So, I looked to fish. Cooks quickly. Adapts to just about any flavor. Healthy. Over the years I’ve provided MLK readers with a lot of fish recipes, from creamy to spicy. Well, here’s yet another one!

Citrus-Poached Fish

(This recipe serves four; I made a half recipe)


3 lemons
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
2 Tblsp dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 Tblsp fresh dill
2 Tblsp drained capers (note: the capers were in short supply in my pantry, so I added a few green peppercorns to spice things ups)
4 fish fillets (a generous pound total)—you can use any firm-fleshed white fish, such as cod. I chose pollock, because at our market this week it was wild-caught and never frozen.
4 tsp olive oil
Salt to taste

Slice one of the lemons in half and squeeze to make 2 Tblsp juice. Slice the remaining lemons thinly.

In a large skillet, combine the broth, wine, lemon juice and shallots. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for another ten minutes. Stir in the dill and capers.


Place the fillets in the liquid. Drizzle with the olive oil and lay the lemon slices on top. Simmer, loosely covered, until the fish flakes easily (this should take about 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets).

Ready to cook
Taste the broth and add salt if needed. Serve with rice or couscous, and spoon some of the cooking liquid over the fish.

This is the next book, Seeds of Deception, coming from Berkley Prime Crime in October. As you can guess from the cover, it takes place in winter.

In this I've managed to combine Monticello and the Mafia, and the town where I went to high school. It was a lot of fun to write.

You can pre-order it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

As it happens, I'm working on two other books at the moment: the next County Cork mystery, Winters Past, also set in winter (with a blizzard!); and the next Relatively Dead mystery (still nameless), which takes place in October. Good planning, right? At least I can think cool thoughts while I swelter at my keyboard.