Admittedly, “flaky white fish” sounds a little blah. It lacks the piscine sex appeal of, say, Copper River salmon or Chilean sea bass. But Christine Burns Rudalevige, a Brunswick-based cooking teacher and seafood blogger (www.familyfish.net with partner Mollie Sanders), suggests that it’s the sort of thing to keep in mind next time you shop for fish. Rather than go to the store armed with a specific recipe and determined to buy a specific fish, “Walk in and say, ‘What is the freshest today? What is caught locally?’” she said. “Get … in the mindset of taking home the fish that is available, the one the oceans can afford to give. …That is a new focus of the sustainable fish movement.”
And it’s why Rudalevige has provided a recipe that will work with any flaky white fish. A flexible approach to grocery shopping helps protect the oceans, she said. It can help your pocketbook, too, allowing you to pick the fish that suits your budget. Said Rudalevige: “There was no cod when I went on Sunday, but haddock was $5.99 per pound and pollack was $2.99.”
She offered another tip for conscientious Maine cooks confused by the complex issues that surround fish-buying (Wild or farmed? Caught locally or as far away as China? Bottom trawled or line-caught?)
“If it’s marked ‘local fish’ and it’s caught in the Gulf of Maine, which is one of the most highly restricted and managed places to fish, then it was caught legally,” she said. “When people say, ‘Don’t eat cod,’ it’s almost an injustice to local fisherman. If it was caught in the state of Maine, it was caught legally, under the quotas, so regardless of what that fish is, it, by definition, was caught in a sustainable fashion.”
Incidentally, if “flaky white fish” sounds generic, Rainbow Chard–Wrapped Flaky White Fish with Lemon, Parsley and Hazelnut Relish sounds anything but.
Rainbow Chard-Wrapped Flaky White Fish with Lemon, Parsley and Hazelnut Relish
In Maine, you could make this recipe with cod, haddock, cusk, hake or pollock. This recipe doesn’t use the chard stalks – use them for something else. (“My absolute favorite,” Rudalevige said, “is to slowly sauté them in olive oil until they are tender, sprinkle in a few thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper and use the warm mixture as a bruschetta topping.”)
2 whole lemons
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
4 or 6 (5-ounce) portions of local flaky white fish fillet
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/3 cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped scallions
¼ cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts
1 tablespoon chopped red chili pepper or ¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 or 6 large (about 3 inches wide and 6 inches long) rainbow chard leaves, stalks removed and saved for another use
Sea salt, optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Zest both lemons. In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons of the zest with 1½ teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper and the cumin. Divide the seasoning mixture among the pieces of fish, rubbing it into both top and bottom of the fillets. Set aside.
Segment the lemons into sections, using a sharp knife. Remove all the pith, then, slicing on each side of each membrane, remove the lemon sections. Set aside. Once you have cut out all the segments, squeeze the juice out of the lemon “skeleton” over a bowl. Whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil, honey, remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Gently stir in the parsley, scallions, hazelnuts, chilies and the lemon sections. Set aside.
Coat a baking dish with some of the melted butter.
To wrap the fish, lay down one chard leaf, shiny side down, on a cutting board. Use a pastry brush to coat the leaf with butter. Place one seasoned fish fillet in the center of the leaf and wrap the ends of the leaf around the fish. Set the bundle, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat this process with the remaining leaves and fish fillets. Brush the top of each bundle with a bit more butter and sprinkle with sea salt, if using. (It seasons and crisps up the chard.)
Bake for 12-14 minutes until the fish is opaque in the center of each bundle. Serve with the lemon-parsley relish.