You know when you’re flipping through your stack of to-try recipes and there’s one that you know will be good but you keep putting it back in the pile and thinking you’ll try that one next time? It’s like you think you already know how that one is going to turn out and you think it’ll be good but you don’t foresee any surprises with it and so you keep putting it back in the stack. I do that a lot. So it was with this fish dish, and I was wrong about it. This is from the October 2010 issue of Food and Wine, and it combines a simply cooked piece of fish coated with Dijon mustard with a chive puree and crispy olives and some potatoes on the side. I thought I knew how the fish would taste after being cooked with a layer of mustard on top, and I thought I knew what the chive puree and olives would be like with it. The flavors were even better. The mustard was mellowed as it seared into the fish, and the bright, fresh, herb puree and salty hit of the oil-cooked olives exceeded expectations.
The puree was made first by very briefly blanching chopped chives and a little spinach in boiling water and then draining and rinsing with cold water. They were squeezed dry before placing them in a blender with extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pureeing. I veered off the recipe path just a bit by roasting sliced potatoes rather than boiling and then slicing. Also, for the olives, rather than cooking in oil in the microwave, I sauteed the chopped olives in oil in a pan on the stove until they were crisp. I used turbot fillets rather than cod, and any white flakey fish with good oil content would work here. I basted them with Dijon mustard, seared them for a few minutes in a pan on top of the stove, then flipped them and placed the pan under the broiler for another couple of minutes. To serve, the fish was topped with the olives, and the sauce and potatoes were placed to the side.
Crisping the olives intensified them, and crispiness itself is always desirable anyway. The mustard protected the fish, preventing it from becoming dry while cooking, and after cooking, a mellow version of its flavor seeped into the fish flesh. So, intense, tasty olives and calm Dijon flavor on the fish got a jolt of herbiness from the chive puree, and what I had thought this was going to be like wasn’t even close. I suppose the moral of this story is that you can’t always trust your own instincts, and you shouldn’t put off trying recipes in your to-try stack.