2017-06-10 / Food

Simpler than chicken: a fish dish for easy weeknights

By ALAN BENNETT
Staff Writer

It’s no “fluke” this delicious hake dinner is so easy and quick to make.
 
I had to.
 
Really, though, this recipe takes the intimidation of making restaurant-quality fish at home. Bursting with the springtime flavors of dill, mint and the delicate tang of green garlic, it’s quick and and just elegant enough to serve to company.
 
You may not have seen green garlic before. It’s just young garlic, plucked from the earth before it forms those glorious cloves we’ve come to know and love. Imagine a scallion — it looks similar — but with a wider bulb at the bottom.
 
You’ll find it at most farmer’s markets, and even some supermarkets, until about mid-June, so act fast!
 
Green garlic is even easier to prepare than its older counterpart. Simply peel away a tough outer layer of skin from the bottom portion, then mince and use. You can even use the top green parts — they’re milder than the bulb and the contrast between the two will only make your final product more complex.
 
And when you’re cooking simply, complexity is a good thing.
 
And what could be simpler than mashing up butter with a few delicious ingredients? That’s all compound butter is.
 
What’s really important in this recipe is that you don’t overshadow the fish. Hake is delicate. It’s a simple fish, very similar to other white fish like flounder or cod. While it can take on a lot of flavor, it’s easy to lose its own very quickly. That’s why I’ve stuck with about four herbs in modest quantities, and no more. If you don’t like mint, go ahead and use cilantro. Not a dill fan? Swap for rosemary. It’s your herb butter and you get to eat it, too — but don’t go crazy.
 
I chose hake because it’s modestly-priced, sustainable and has a firm, sweet flesh. But if you want, go ahead and use a different fish entirely. The herb compound butter treatment goes a long way with many a gill-bearing creature. Shrimp, lobster or another white fish is ideal. Shy away from salmon or mackerel here, though, as they’re fatty enough on their own.
 
This dish is simple enough to make for you and your family on a weeknight, but it’s also great fare for even your pickiest of guests. Dress it up with a light risotto, a slightly-sweet bottle of rosé and some sautéed broccoli rabe, and you’re serving dinner-party realness that’ll be the talk of the office for days long after.
 
Roasted hake with green garlic herb butter
Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4
 Easier and faster than roast chicken, roasted hake is just as much a crowd-pleaser. ALAN BENNETT/Journal TribuneEasier and faster than roast chicken, roasted hake is just as much a crowd-pleaser. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune
2 1-pound hake filets
1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed and thinly-sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
Kosher salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving
Chopped scallions, for serving
 
For the green garlic herb butter:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
3 tablespoons minced green garlic stalks, from both white and green parts
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, more for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped dill, more for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped mint, more for garnish
½ teaspoon chile flakes
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
 
Prepare the herb compound butter. In a medium bowl, add the green garlic, parsley, dill, mint, chile flakes, lemon zest and juice and salt and pepper to and stir to combine (this will dissolve the salt and mellow out the garlic). Add the butter and mash with a fork, combining all ingredients (this can also be done in a food processor). Set aside while you prepare the fish or refrigerate until ready to use; this can also be made way ahead and kept in the freezer for months.
 
When ready to cook, heat oven to 400 degrees. Season the hake filets liberally with salt and pepper and drizzle both sides of each with olive oil and set fish onto a rimmed baking sheet. Slather with softened herb butter — that's right, slather it — and top with jalapeño slices and bake 6 to 8 minutes, until fish begins to turn opaque.
 
In the last minute of cooking, turn on the oven’s broiler to brown the herbs on top and form a crust. Remove quickly and serve fish hot, topped with additional chopped herbs, scallions and a hefty squeeze of fresh lemon to cut the richness. Save the butter at the bottom of the pan for dressing the plate; it also makes a great dip for crusty bread.

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