Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
I’m growing impatient with winter comfort food. This week, my inclination was to look to lighter fare, like fish. Milder in flavor than salmon, though not as delicate as flounder or sole, rainbow trout—especially pan-fried and topped with a creamy nut butter—is a great dish to transition from winter to the spring weather that, for some of us, is simply taking too long to arrive.
If you have a chance to select your own fish and have it filleted, first look to see that the pinkish-blue tone of the skin is shiny and the color vibrant. Lightly press the fish with your fingers, and its surface should spring back.
Once home, I put a tray of vegetables in the oven to roast. Then I turned to the butter: As long as you have a food processor or hand-held immersion blender, this flourish is just simple enough for a weeknight. Take an extra five minutes to toast your chopped walnuts and pecans in a pan before mixing; this will add a crunchier element to the topping and a stronger flavor to balance the chopped onions.
Once you’ve mixed up the butter, which is dangerously savory enough to entice you to try a bite or two by the spoonful, I recommend putting it in the fridge to maintain its thick consistency. As a last-minute addition, I sprinkled sea salt on top to further draw out the flavors.
To coat the fillets in the seasoned breadcrumbs, I like to use a high-sided plate large enough to lay a fillet completely flat; the high sides will stop crumbs from spilling onto your countertop. If you have it, a dash of lemon pepper adds a bit of bite.
Take care that the fish isn't on the stovetop too long, as the thin edges of the fillet become crispy. Once plated, add a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of butter, which will melt over the fillet’s hot surface. All you need now is wine.
A bright Sauvignon Blanc–Sémillon blend from Bordeaux shone as the best pairing for this meal. On its own, the wine had a lively quality, with notes of tart green apple and a hint of salinity on the palate. The finish was clean and smooth, with bracing acidity. Paired with the fish and roasted vegetables, the wine took on a fuller, rounder mouthfeel and developed more buttery notes that echoed the trout’s light breading and unctuous texture. The savory flavors in the nut butter added complexity to the pairing, complemented nicely by the subtle herbal notes in the wine.
In contrast, a 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, had a pleasing cocktail of tropical fruit on its own, but those flavors clashed with the trout, and the wine and food struggled for dominance. When you’re considering wine pairings, stick to a less-ripe style of white with herbal or minerally notes.
Pair with a bright Sauvignon Blanc–based wine from France, such as Château Lamothe Vincent Bordeaux White 2015 (87 points, $12).
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Approximate food costs: $20
1. If desired, toast nuts in a pan on the stovetop on medium heat for 5 minutes. Mind them carefully, as they can quickly burn. Make sure the nuts have completely cooled before blending.
2. Use a food processor or immersion blender to mix 4 tablespoons of the butter, pecans, walnuts and chopped raw onion in a bowl until well-blended; set aside in the fridge to cool.
3. Wash trout fillets and pat dry. Combine bread crumbs and salt and pepper and gently press the mixture into the fillets on both sides.
4. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter with the teaspoon of olive oil in a large non-stick pan.
5. Sauté fillets on medium-high heat for approximately 2 minutes, flip and do the same for the other side. This early heat ensures a crispy bread coat on the fish. Turn down to medium heat and let cook for another 1 minute or until browned. (Cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the fish.)
6. Top each fillet with a bit of lemon juice and a hefty tablespoon of the pecan-walnut butter and serve. Accompany with a small salad for warmer months or roasted vegetables for a cold-weather dish. Serves 4.