I also feel like this is the perfect meal to cook that special someone for Valentines Day...it's elegant, it's just fancy enough but so easy to execute, it's incredible, and anytime a runny egg yolk is invited to the party, the party becomes instantly sexier so...I mean, what more could you ask for?
And here's how it all went down...
*FENNEL AND CORIANDER STEELHEAD TROUT
WITH LENTILS, BEETS AND DUCK EGG
(serves 4, but can easily be scaled down by using less fish. You'll see below that I cooked 3 portions of fish so I would have a lunch the next day but had plenty of lentils leftover.)
(plan on 1 standard, medium-large beet per person.)
This is the first thing you want to do for this meal. Start these earlier in the day, even the day before if you can, and store them in the fridge before the second roast. The best way to cook beets is to dry roast them whole first, before you slice, saute or roast them. It's so easy. All you have to do is cut off the stems (keep the greens to saute for another meal-they're delicious!), cut off any long end pieces and wrap each one in several layers of heavy duty foil. Place them on a roasting pan and cook at 350 for about 2 hours, or until they're fork tender. Allow them to cool in the foil and once cooled, the peel just slides right off when rubbed with paper towel. After the peels have been removed, slice them into wedges and place back in that same roasting pan with enough olive or canola oil to lightly coat, a good amount of kosher salt, a bit of sugar, and a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar to coat. Roast at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until caramelized on the outside, while your lentils are simmering...
For the Lentils...
In a medium saucepan with a bit of olive or canola oil, sweat out the following...
-1 carrot, peeled and diced
-1 celery stalk, diced
-1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
Season with kosher salt
Cook til the onions and celery are transluscent
-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Stir until the garlic is fragrant.
-1 cup french lentils*
Toss around with the vegetables and allow them to toast a bit.
Deglaze the pan with...
-a good splash of a dry, white wine such as a pinot grigio
Stir and scrape up any bits that were stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Allow the wine to bubble for about 30 seconds.
-2 cups of broth/stock (I used chicken only because I had an open carton already, but vegetable would be perfectly fine. As would water...you would just need too add more salt to taste.)
-a large handful of fresh sage leaves, wrapped in kitchen twine. (This is because you want the flavor of sage but not the pieces.)
Bring the liquid to a boil. Stir well and cover. Reduce to a simmer and cook, simmering and covered, for 20 minutes. The lentils will still have a bite to them and that's what you want.
Remove sage bundle and adjust seasoning if necessary.
(*I prefer using french lentils instead of the larger green ones because they hold their shape better. The traditional green ones break down too easily and become mushy. But the french lentils, which are smaller and almost black in color, keep their integrity. They're a bit more expensive and you know me and saving money, but I feel it's worth it. If all you have are domestic green lentils and everything else to make this dish, please don't go out just for fancy lentils. That's ridiculous.)
For the Trout...
Season your filets well, on the flesh side, with kosher salt, whole fennel and coriander seeds, finely ground (plan on roughly 1/2 tsp of each spice per fish portion), and lemon zest (2 fish portions take the zest of about 1/2 a lemon-reserve the lemon for later). (If you have the time, season your fish at least an hour beforehand, if not earlier that day.)
Allow the fish to come up to room temperature while your beets and lentils are cooking, for about 10 minutes.
Preheat a large skillet on medium-high heat (I don't add oil to my pans when I'm cooking salmon or something similar. There is already a lot of oil in the fish and it's unnecessary to add more.) Once the skillet is hot, place the fish, seasoned flesh-side down into the pan. Do not touch it. Allow it to cook, unmoved for 4-5 minutes. Most of the cooking is done on this first side and you want a good crust on it before you flip. You also know it's ready to flip when it pulls away from the pan and doesn't stick. Flip the fish over, skin-side down, and transfer to the oven where your beets are cooking. They should only take about 6-8 minutes to finish cooking, depending on how thick your filets were. They should be a little springy to the touch.
For the Duck Eggs...
(Yes, you can use chicken eggs. Absolutely. I was just feeling fancy. Duck eggs have a much richer flavor, a higher nutritional count, and are super duper yummy. But, then again, so are really good chicken eggs ;-) And you're going to start cooking these once you've transferred your fish to the oven.)
Preheat a medium, nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add some canola/olive oil to the pan once it's hot. Crack each egg into the pan, season well with kosher salt...
...and cover the skillet with a lid, or a pan of equal size, or a piece of foil. Just make sure it's completely covered. Cook for 3-5 minutes, checking to make sure you don't overcook it. You want a still-orange yolk and a firm, opaque white. A little foggy film over the yolks is perfect for a really thick but still runny yolk.
How to plate...
First, take a handful of fresh arugula leaves and place in the center of each plate.
Then take a large mound of your lentils and place on top of the arugula bed.
Then take your fish (remove the skin if you need to, your choice) and place centered over the lentils.
Arrange some of your balsamic beets around the fish and over the lentils.
Top the fish with your cooked egg.
Add a bit of sea or kosher salt over everything, some cracked black pepper, and a good squeeze of fresh lemon (from the one you zested earlier.)
Consider stopping halfway through...
But then, most likely reconsider.
Still hungry for more? Of course you are, darling.
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