Some sexist generalizations, with recipes

While the man was away for a week recently, bringing home the bacon, I cooked a lot of fish.

In Chicago, where I live, men really, really like bacon. In fact, I received this blurry snapshot from the man after his 6 a.m. arrival in London.

Then, as he stopped through London again, I got another unsolicited blurry bacon-sandwich picture. I do not know what the sauce is. And I will not ask.

These men in Chicago? They will grab a cow carcass, tear off a chunk with their teeth and chew, then wash it down with sloshing tumblers of red wine, or a whole pitcher of beer, in one gulp. Aaaargh. Arr.

Am I making sweeping sexist generalizations? Did I just reduce the man I live with to a rabid Paul Bunyan-like character? Am I readily admitting that I do most of the cooking around here? I am. So be it.

The only problem that I can see with the arrangement is that I don't eat as much fish as I used to. It's too bad there is no such thing as a bacon fish. Then my life would be absolute perfection.

I'll admit, an overzealous treatment may have had something to do with fish falling off our household menu. But during my recent week alone, I made fish the way I want it--simply cooked--rather than dressing it up like some cheap floozie hanging around the bar on Gunsmoke, just to get the man's attention.

My standard dish is a fish en (faux) papillote. It is nothing new, but it is something quite good. 

  • I preheat the oven to 400. Take a filet of salmon or roughy or whitefish (If I'm alone, I eat a big piece: 10 ounces or so, with nothing on the side), place it crosswise on a foot-long sheet of tinfoil, top it with some thinly sliced mushrooms, some chopped tomato, chopped parsley, a few fresh herbs if I remember them (basil is always nice; tarragon), a bit of crushed garlic. Splash of white wine, splash of cream (optional), tablespoon of butter in pieces, salt and freshly ground pepper. Another good combo is thinly sliced seeded cucumber, thin onion, white pepper, some cream. Herbs if you like, but a sparing amount. 
  • I bring the two ends together at the top and roll it tightly together, then down the sides, to make a roomy envelope that will serve as a steam room for the fish. Place on a sheet pan and cook it according to how thick the fish is, in this case about 25-30 minutes. You should try to wait as long as possible before you check it for readiness (fish flakes at the thickest part when it's done), because you'll lose good steam once you open it, but don't wait too long because overcooked fish seems more expensive than perfectly cooked fish.

I like this dish because it ends up being almost like a stew, which I tip from the foil packet into a big bowl and gobble down with a spoon. Since the cooking time is pretty brief you must be sensible about the vegetables you use, unless you plan to steam them first. Don't use hard carrots, for instance, and don't use stupid vegetables either. No lima beans.

A recipe I just discovered, and that I plan to spring on the man some time soon, is straight out of Ina Garten's latest book, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics (Clarkson Potter, $35), which I love so much I want to marry it. I followed Garten's recipe to a T, which is something I rarely do, but I interviewed/fell more madly in love with her not long ago (you can read my piece here) and realized that the reason her recipes are always perfect is because she is so extremely precise about the flavor she is trying to achieve. Rather than "one medium onion, finely chopped," she often suggests an exact measurement. So I see no reason to stray; this dish, for instance, is a snap to achieve (ten minutes to prepare; 15 to cook) and luscious beyond expectation.

You basically ice the fish, like a cupcake. 

Then you cook it, and the sauce turns to a liquid gold, then browns.  How easy is that?

It's one of the easiest ways I know to get more fish into your life, and as Garten points out, "It's good enough to serve to the fanciest company." Or, a bacon-eater.

Mustard Roasted Fish
Serves 4

4 (8-ounce) fish fillets such as red snapper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces creme fraich
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons dried capers

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • Line a sheet pan with parchment. (You can also use and ovenproof baking dish.) Place the fish fillets skin side down on the sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Combine the creme fraiche, two mustards, shallots, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish fillets, making sure the fish is completely covered. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it's barely done. (the fish will flake easily at the thickest part when it's done.) Be sure not to overcook it! Serve hot or at room temperature with the sauce from the pan spooned over the top.


  1. I remember that faux-papillote fish--you told me about it years ago, and it is delicious. I haven't had it in a long time. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. It's HB sauce.

    Good on bacon sandwiches.

  3. I make a variation on this recipe by mixing 2 parts mustard, 1 part mayo, slather it on the fish, and sprinkle with paprika. Low-class, but what the hey. Tastes delicious.

  4. Bridge the gap! I've spent a few years of intermittent mental energy trying to approximate some kind of fish-bacon.

    Thinly-sliced smoked tuna fried in some hot butter gets close, but it's not perfect. I'm thinking next up will be experimentation with monkfish liver.

  5. I love mustard sauce on chicken too. But I think it is even better on a white flakey fish, and your recipe looks superb.

    No bacon required!

  6. Favorite cooking advice ever: "Don't use stupid vegetables." Love it.

  7. Hi Emily,
    My husband is a bacon eater. I'm a fish eater. Hence, my husband is a fish (often with some mustard sauce variation)eater.

    I'm a freelance writer working on a story about newspaper food section cuts, and I found your blog via Kim O'Donnel's post the other day. My story's due Sunday. Would you be willing to chat briefly, via e-mail or phone, about what's being lost as newspaper food coverage fades away? You can contact me via my site.

    Thanks, and all best.


  8. Now that's gotta be one of the hardest dishes to photograph!

    That's the only Ina Garten book that I don't have - are the rest of the recipes from book just as good?

  9. 1. Bacon sandwiches are the failsafe jet lag cure.
    2. I am definitely going to try the foil fish recipe. My favorite dish at a now defunct Atlanta restaurant called Partners was a simple fish in parchment that sounds kinda like this. What would you use in Fla? Snapper?

  10. "I do not know what the sauce is. And I will not ask."

    I am sad to say that it is, simply, Brown Sauce. (Like HB, as Anon said above.) Thin, tasty, spicy - has tamarind in it? - but overall ... brown.

  11. Great stuff Emily. I have some friends, guys of course, who try to eat bacon at every meal...the day goes something like this - bacon and swiss omlette, followed by a BLT for lunch, capped off at dinner with a 14oz. filet wrapped in BACON! They don't even refer to it by its given name, they just call it meat candy.

  12. Jim, that's so funny! I'm going to start calling it meat candy. I am going to post a recipe soon for giant turkey breast wrapped in Meat Candy. David and I made it recently, with adobo marinade. It was so good I couldn't believe it.