The 40 Minute Family Meal: A Vaguely Mediterranean Fish Feast

The kids had stayed up late and gotten up early. And so had we (a Halloween, and post-Halloween pattern repeated throughout the country I’m sure). And before we knew it, dinner time had rolled around.

In the maelstrom of last minute costume changes and candy buying, not much grocery shopping had been done for the latter half of the week. We had on hand: 3 green olives (leftovers from some forgotten party weeks, or even months, past). 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes (leftovers from a chili prepared earlier in the week). 2 fillets frozen mahi mahi. An onion. 1/5 a bottle of white wine (leftover from the previous night’s drinking). We had pita (leftover from the previous night’s takeout Middle eastern dinner). We had tabouli (takeout, again). Sounded like a dinner. Or, rather, needed to be dinner. Because there were no other options.

This is one of those recipes that, in its random collection of ingredients, is not one to shop for, so I’ve come up with the loosest of ingredient lists here. You likely will have some approximation of the following in your pantry/fridge at some point in the upcoming year. So here’s what we did. And it was darned good (I think the trick was the building of flavors: the stealth heat. The added umami of a single anchovy. the caramelization of the protein. The deglazing with the wine. the balance of the wine’s acid and the pinch of sugar. the no skimping on the oil. the olives. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Some Sort of Protein With Some Tomatoish Salty Tangy Wine Sauce
The main components here are: protein, tomato, salty stuff. Moral of this vague story: make the most of what you’ve got.

2 fillets of fish, chicken, rabbit, or pork
a couple cups of tomatoes: canned, crushed, fresh chopped. Some.
a few olives or capers
an onion, or a handful of shallots, roughly chopped
a few cloves of garlic, chopped
chili flakes, or jalapeno. Or not.
some white wine (i used a cup, which was probably too much)
olive oil, or other oil, or butter. This part is one of two CAN”T AVOID options. Fat is flavor and richness and happiness. In moderation of course.
saffron. Or not.
thyme. Or parsley. Or oregano. Or not.
salt. This part is ALSO NOT an option. Do it, or your food will be bland.
a pinch of sugar (this i had to add because it was too bitter otherwise, which was probably the result of the excess wine i used. also if i’d used more onion i might not have needed this for balance. don’t be afraid of doing this if you need to. Balance is everything.)
1 anchovy. totally optional. it just seemed like a good idea. And we happened to have 1 anchovy.

In a large, heavy bottomed sautee pan, heat the olive oil (or other fat)) over high heat. Sear the protein (fish, chicken, etc) until brown, but not cooked through. Set aside.

Add the onion and garlic to pan and sautee until translucent. Add the spicy element (if your kids can handle it). Add the saffron, if you’ve got it. Add the white wine and simmer until alcohol has cooked off. Add tomatoes. Add olives (or capers, or other salty stuff).

Cook until reduced a bit. Lower heat so the llquid is at a simmer. Add fish. Cover and cook 10 minutes or so, or until fish is just cooked through.

Serve with pita. Or bread. Or pasta. Or polenta. Or rice. Or….

Happy weekend.

—Hugh

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