Hailing originally from the Midwest, I've never been much of a fish girl. I'll blame that on the lack of good, fresh fish where I grew up, but honestly, I think the look of fish always kinda grossed me out - it made me think of eating bugs and such.
Now that I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate fish, particularly good, fresh fish.
However, I've never made the leap from enjoying fish at a restaurant to preparing fish at home. I had always feared stinking up the house with that "fish smell".
That is, until I threw caution to the wind and decided to try a recipe from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Quick Weeknight Dinners for Two. Years ago, grandmother had sent me a batch of cookbooks from her collection. These were received after I was married but prior to having kids. And in the intervening years, this one cookbook has become my go-to book for recipes. I see that this book is no longer in print (and was, I believe, a special order from Food & Wine magazine, given the imprint. I don't even see an ISBN number on it). I particularly love this cookbook because it splits the recipes into seasons - which was one of the first times I've seen a cookbook do that, and has proved to be a great way to find recipes that use seasonal produce and are light/heavy enough for the weather of the season. They also offer full menu suggestions (with accompanying recipes for side dishes and desserts), as well as a "Game Plan" (time-line for what to prep when so all finishes at the same time. I'll admit to using these to help me learn how to dovetail food prep in the kitchen).
So in the Winter section of the book is a recipe called "Roasted Cod with Potatoes and Leeks." Oh my, such a quick and fuss-free recipe! The first time I tried it, it turned out pretty good. No fishy odor in the house. Light and tasty fish. But over time, I've tweaked it a lot to make it taste more like I think it should taste. I've added cream to the potatoes (I don't know why it wasn't there in the first place), changed the fish from cod to haddock, removed the tomatoes (because my girls hate them and I didn't want to have to pick them out), removed the parsley (because the girls are suspicious of it), and extended the potato cooking time so the potatoes were properly cooked (25 minutes was never enough to get those potatoes to finish cooking).
So I share here with you the recipe for roasted haddock that is both simple and delicious:
Roasted Haddock with Leeks (or Shallots)
2 tablespoons butter
1 large leek (white and light-green parts only, chopped and rinsed well) or 3 shallots (sliced thinly)
salt and fresh ground pepper
1 lb golden potatoes (though the original recipe calls for red potatoes - choose your favorite - I like the creamy-ness of the golden potatoes), peeled and sliced thin
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup or so of heavy cream
3/4 - 1 lb haddock fillet, in one or two pieces
1 teaspoon olive oil
- Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the leeks (or shallots, or both!) and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, 2 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Coat an 8-inch-square baking pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Layer one-third of the potatoes in the pan, overlapping slightly; sprinkle with salt and peer. Spoon half the leek/shallot mixture over the top and drizzle some heavy cream, top with another layer of potatoes. Repeat with the remaining leeks, another drizzle of heavy cream and a third layer of potatoes. Sprinkle top of potatoes with salt and pepper, dot with a bit of butter, and pour stock around the edges. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 30-45 minutes, covered with aluminum foil, until potatoes are tender.
- Rub the cod with the oil and season with salt and pepper. When the potatoes are cooked, set the haddock on top of the potatoes and bake uncovered for 10 minutes, until the haddock is cooked through. Serve immediately, spooning pan juices of the potatoes.