Come Friday night, after a long week of keeping (nearly) all the balls in the air, I feel I deserve a dinner that doesn't come out of a cardboard box.
But given the whirl that precedes it, Friday night dinner calls for speed and ease.
This dish offers offers both, without sacrificing pleasure.
It is snappy and no fuss - 30 minutes from Go to Whoa, and most of that is non-active potato cooking time.
The tender, flaky fish and lemon juice are healthy enough to leave you feeling virtuous, while the toasted almond and butter leave you feeling indulged.
Add a chilly glass of bright, crisp Primo Estate La Biondina Colombard Sauvignon Blanc to wash away the frenzy of the week, and all will be right with the world.
Pan-fried Fish With Lemon Butter and Toasted Almonds
served with mashed potatoes* and snow peas, serves 4
Choose any white flakey fish fillet. I usually go for whiting or snapper - something thin and delicate - but this week there was a rare option on offer: Monkfish. The fillets were enormous and incredibly high in the center, but with King George Whiting going for a cool $54/kg and Monkfish a mere $24/kg, there wasn't a lot of prevaricating. And in the end, it worked out beautifully.
*We are hurdling towards winter here in Australia, so mash is taking center stage on cold nights, but in summer I'd opt for tiny boiled new or cocktail potatoes, tossed with butter, salt and parsley or dill.
4 Fish Fillets, skinless and deboned
Flaked Almonds, one large handful
Unsalted Butter, lots
Cream, 1/2 cup or more, as needed
Parsley, 1-2 tablespoons, finely chopped
Snow Peas, de-stringed
Baby Carrots, peeled, for children who hate snow peas
1. Cut potatoes, skin on, into uniform pieces - the smaller the size, the quicker the cooking time. A 1-2 inch dice will be fast. Begin steaming.
2. Get a child to pull the strings off the snow peas. Reassure said child that he will not have to eat the snow peas if he is not so inclined - he can opt for raw baby carrots. Remember with mixture of panic and nausea what you've seen said child do with his fingers and hastily remind him to wash his hands. With the nailbrush. And soap. And hot water. Twice.
3. Check fish for any bones the fishmonger may have overlooked (I usually finds several annoyingly large specimens in my "deboned" fillets) and remove. Season fish on both sides with sea salt (generously) and freshly ground black pepper (sparingly).
4. Toast flaked almonds in a large, dry skillet over medium heat, swishing them around the pan frequently and tossing gently, so as not to break them. Remove almonds to a small plate for later.
5. Bring a shallow pan of salted water to simmer - not boil - in anticipation of cooking snow peas.
6. When the potatoes are easily broken with a fork, melt cream and butter in heavy bottomed pot, season with salt and bring to the boil. Add cooked potatoes and mash, over low heat. Set aside with lid on pot to keep warm.
7. Melt unsalted butter in skillet over med-high heat. Add fish to skillet. Fry a minute or two on first side, according to the thickness of your fillet. Squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon over fish, catching pips with a sieve or your free hand. Turn the fish and cook for a corresponding amount of time.
8. Meanwhile, simmer snow peas. Cook until bright, emerald green and still crisp - they should snap when broken in two. Drain and set aside
9. Test fish by pressing the thickest part of the fillet with your finger - it should be firm, not tough, with a bit of give. Remember that the fish will continue to cook after it is removed from the pan.
10. Dish mashed potatoes and snow peas onto plates. When the fish is done, remove it to waiting plates.
11. Add the juice of the remaining lemon half to the pan. Deglaze, scraping to get all the good bits. The pan juices will constitute the sauce, so add the juice of another 1/2 or whole lemon if there isn't enough liquid. Add the toasted almond flakes to the pan, swirl around and pour over fish and snowpeas.
My husband is growing really tired of me styling his food before he is allowed to eat it. Thanks, honey.