Tuesday 10 January 2012

Panfried Linefish with a Light Chive, Garlic & Yoghurt Sauce

Delicate, whisker-thin French chives are a most underrated ingredient, I think, and mostly because they're not always easy to find on supermarket shelves. I love the mild green onioniness of fine chives, and they look so pretty finely snipped and strewn all over salads, omelettes, chicken and fish.

Panfried Linefish with a Light Chive, Garlic & Yoghurt Sauce

Here's a very light 'n lean, herby sauce made with thick natural yoghurt, lemon and a nice jab of fresh garlic. This is a variation of a garlicky low-fat concoction I make in buckets whenever I'm trying to stick to a nasty diet healthy eating plan (and, yes, it's that time of year again). As for the yoghurt: you will hear food pundits now and then fussing that yoghurt and fish are an unacceptable combination.  This is nonsense, and a bit insulting, I reckon, to the grand culinary tradition of Indian fish curries enriched and enhanced with this versatile and healthy ingredient.

The hardest thing, I find, when trying to eat with some restraint, is foregoing butter. I can do without chocolate, cakes and biscuits, I can resist biltong and bacon and crisps if I have to, but I get very long teeth when I have to face a baked potato without a big sunshiny dollop of salty, melty butter. The same goes for toast, and many other lovely foodstuffs. I have discovered, though, that the stinging garlickiness of a lavishly herbal yoghurt sauce (plus a few dabs of Tabasco) goes a long way towards making up for severe butter deprivation. Mashed with the back of a fork into a big, floury baked potato, this sauce is quite addictive, and sends up wonderful vapours as the heat of the spud releases the aromatic oils in the garlic and herbs.

You can add anything you like to this basic yoghurt mix: chopped capers, gherkins, chopped fresh green chillies, crushed brined peppercorns, grated fresh ginger, mashed anchovies, minced olives, and so on - whatever sets your tastebuds a-tingle.

A dollop of good home-made mayonnaise - or Hellmann's Original - will improve this sauce, nicely rounding out its flavours, but you can leave the mayo out if you're on the strictest of diets. (I don't. What harm can such a small quantity of mayo do?)

In the picture above, I've served the fish with crushed baby potatoes lightly slicked with olive oil.  You can boil the spuds in salted water if you have the time, but I just prick them and sling them in the microwave.

Panfried Linefish with a Light Chive, Garlic & Yoghurt Sauce

4 thick pieces of firm-textured linefish, such as yellowtail or dorado
salt and milled black pepper
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil

For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic, peeled
a pinch of flaky sea salt
2 tsp (10 ml) Dijon mustard
the finely grated zest and juice of a small lemon
a fistful (about half a cup; 125 ml) of fresh parsley, stems removed
a fistful (about half a cup; 125 ml) of fresh basil, stems removed
a thumb-thick bundle of French chives
1 cup (250 ml) thick natural yoghurt; use full-fat Greek yoghurt if calories aren't an issue
3 Tbsp (45 ml) good-quality mayonnaise, such as Hellmann's [optional]
salt and milled black pepper
a little olive oil, for drizzling

First make the sauce. Pound the garlic cloves and sea salt to a fine paste, using a mortar and pestle. Stir in the mustard, lemon zest and lemon juice. Scrape the paste into a small mixing bowl. Very finely chop the parsley, basil and three quarters of the chives, and add them to the bowl. Set the remaining chives to one side. Stir in the yoghurt and mayonnaise [optional] and season to taste with salt and milled black pepper. Alternatively, and if you'd like a smooth, pale green mixture, blitz all the ingredients (except the yoghurt) together using the jug attachment on a hand-blender. Stir in the yoghurt and season to taste.

You can use the sauce right away, but I've found it improves and thickens on standing in the fridge for a few hours.

Now, the fish. Remove the skin and bones and season the fish lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a non-stick frying pan until it's very hot, then add the olive oil. Wait until the oil is shimmering (but nowhere near smoking) and place the fish fillets, a few at a time, in the pan. Press down lightly on the fish with a spatula or the back of a fork.

After two minutes (depending on the thickness of your fish) take a peek underneath. If the fish has a nice golden finish, flip it over and cook it for another minute or two, or until just cooked through. I can't give you precise times - cooking times differ according to the type and size of the fish fillets - but you will know when your fish is ready when you press a fork through the thickest part of the fillet and find a tender, moist, gently flaking interior, with no sign of glassiness.  If you're not counting calories, add a big knob of butter to the pan and use a teaspoon to baste the fish with the butter during the last minute of cooking.

At this point, immediately lift the fish pieces from the pan and lay them to drain for a minute on a double piece of kitchen paper. While they're draining, very finely snip the remaining chives.

Pile the crushed baby potatoes - if you've made them - on warmed plates and place the fish fillets on top. Spoon a few dollops of cold yoghurt sauce on top of each piece of fish and sprinkle with the reserved chopped chives and a decent drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4.

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Hila said...

That picture made my mouth water instantly. The sauce sounds delicious and I love the honesty in your writing. :)

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you, my friend.

Nina Timm said...

Nothing diety about this picture, I will choose this any day over chocolate, biscuits etc...Good luck for 2012 with all its exciting ventures.

Maryon said...

Lip-smacking! Makes me long for my herb garden....bring on the spring.
Hope you had a good Xmas and all the best for 2012.

Jane-Anne said...

Thanks Nina! Thanks M! Same to you both.

Marisa said...

Love the look and sound of that yoghurt sauce J-A! You never fail to rouse my appetite. And yes, I have chives in my herb garden. *smug look*

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Zoe said...

I loved the light sauce. Added rocket, as I do to most things summer, and it was divine!

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you Zoe! I think this would be divine topped with a big tuft of rocket.

Gillian Chambers said...

Been catching up on your posts today - am now more confused than ever as to what to make for dinner tonight!

Jane-Anne said...

Thanks Gillian. Try the linefish - it's so light and easy to make.