Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dinner Disaster

Not every meal can be a masterpiece ...

As formidable home cooks, sometimes it’s easy to get a bit cocky. But then, a series of events humbles you and you’re forced to eat disgustingly mushy broccoli.

Last Sunday we had an “easy” meal planned. Parmesan Herb Baked Flounder is a Cooking Light recipe that we’ve been making for years. I admit I really don’t like most seafood. Even the freshest piece of salmon smells fishy to me. But I’ll eat white fish like cod and halibut somewhat grudgingly. Trevor loves fish in all shapes and forms and is constantly trying to get me to cook it more often. When Trevor brought it up this week, I saw frozen cod fillets were on sale so I said we could do the Cooking Light recipe.

Because we’ve made it so often and always have the ingredients on hand, I didn’t check the recipe before going to the grocery store. I didn’t put green onions and Parmesan cheese on my shopping list. I thought I had the cheese and completely forgot green onions were called for. That was misstep number one. When I got home, I put two fillets in a bowl of cool water to defrost. When we got ready to make dinner, they weren’t completely thawed. We should have put them in the microwave to defrost them a tiny bit. That was big misstep number two.

Trevor made the topping without reading the recipe and mixed all of the wet ingredients with breadcrumbs. We did stop and correct that. Although I grated the tiny bit of Parrano cheese we had left down to the rind to have a scant amount of cheese for the second attempt. At this point, things already were not looking good. This was supposed to be an easy, quick meal. We’ve made it a million times and it’s always tasty — even to someone who doesn't like fish.

I had held off making the sautéed broccoli we were having on the side until the Persephone Yellow Finn potatoes I was boiling were almost done. We held off putting the fish in the oven, too since it usually takes 10 to 12 minutes to cook. Once the fish went in, I sautéed garlic slices in olive oil and added the broccoli, salt and red pepper flakes, then added about ¼ cup water and covered. It takes about 7 minutes with the heat turned to low. The broccoli should be bright green and crisp tender when done. I'd timed it to be ready when the fish came out of the oven. When the fish should have been done, Trevor stuck a fork in it and realized it was still frozen in parts. So it went back into the oven.

I had tossed the potatoes with a quick vinaigrette of red-wine vinegar, grainy mustard, olive oil and salt and pepper. I loved boiled potatoes with lots of vinegar and a bit of oil when I was little, but it’s not something I eat often now. With lots of potatoes in our root cellar, I thought they’d be a good quick side. Trevor had the idea of adding some crumbled bacon on top. That made them even better.

As we were waiting for the fish to cook, I turned the broccoli off, but kept the lid on to keep it warm. I’ve lost count of what misstep this is, but that was another one. As we were waiting for the fish, we started picking at the potatoes. I took one, then Trevor accused me of eating a bunch, so he took several bites. The fish still was not done and we were running out of potatoes.

Finally the fish was out of the oven. But when I went to put the broccoli on the plates, I realized it had kept cooking and was an unappetizing olive green. But at this point, we’d gone too far to call it quits. We ate our fish, remaining potatoes and mushy broccoli, shaking our heads and laughing at ourselves for making the sorriest looking meal we’d had in a long time. (And Trevor's fish still had a few parts that weren't quite done!) The Persephone potatoes were the only bright spot. They were tangy and salty with a little crunch from the bacon. And although we completely biffed the fish this time, it is a recipe worth trying. And it’s one we will eat again — when we’re sure the fish is completely defrosted first.


Parmesan Herb Baked Flounder


  1. ooh - I have a defrosting tip to solve future defrosting problems!!

    I like to defrost in water as well - but what is key is that the water is moving: put the dish of water with the plastic wrapped fish (or other frozen thing) in the sink and have the cold water running over the frozen stuff. This is great for anything frozen, the moving water will defrost much quicker than still water (doesn't have to be a waste of water, only takes a few minutes and you don't have to have the water on full blast by any means, a steady dribble will do it). Works great, I swear. Defrosts in less than 10 mins. Its all about the kinetic energy.

  2. Thanks for revealing that even YOU are human in the kitchen! I hope you guys had dessert :)

  3. Leah, I tried your trick last night and it worked great! Thanks!

    Kate, we did eat some peanut butter ice cream and that made things much better!