My Dad called me up the other day and gave me a piece of his mind. “Where are the healthy recipes for folks with dietary restrictions like me? Your stuff looks great, but there’s a lot there I can’t eat. People need healthier recipes, too.” “Sure, Dad,” said I. I offered to get to it after Christmas and New Year’s Day. He kindly suggested that dietary restrictions didn’t take a holiday and that some people might really enjoy a lighter food break occasionally even if it was Christmas…
After a week of my kids climbing the walls, bouncing off the ceiling, and being on each other like ugly on apes, it occured to me that perhaps the steady diet of Christmas treats might be affecting them adversely. My Dad had been right. Of course I realized this at about 5:30p.m. and had nothing remotely healthy on the radar for dinner that evening. I stuffed the block of cheese and the ground beef back in the fridge, took a minute to reconsider my plans and stuck a pot of rice in the rice cooker. I rifled through the freezer and dug out a pound and a half of individually frozen blue hake fillets. Surely I could do something with that!
Twenty five minutes later I had thrown together what is a new favorite in our house; Provençal style fish en cocotte with a garlicky tomato sauce. Don’t let the name fool you. We’ve done cocotte here and here before and it was super simple and quick. Cocotte is the French word for casserole. We all know casserole=easy. This fish dinner comes together in a flash and is done to garlicky perfection in 20 minutes flat. Give your body a break this holiday season. Try the fish on for size and see if it doesn’t improve your outlook a bit.
The “Provençal” in this dish comes from the lovely Herbes de Provençe in the tomato sauce. If you can’t lay your hands on Herbes de Provençe don’t sweat it. *You can substitute a sprig each of fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano and parsley or a half teaspoon each of the dried varieties of those herbs. It’ll be just as good!
And don’t worry about the amount of extra virgin olive oil in this, for Pete’s sake. It’s good for you and the fish itself is an extremely lean and low-fat protein. And it’s mercifully light on the wallet, too.
- 1 1/2 pounds firm, white fleshed fish fillets, such as hake or cod, fresh or individually frozen
- 1 large onion, minced
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1/2 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio, but feel free to use what you prefer just so long as it isn’t cooking wine. Blech. There oughta be a law.)
- 1 can, 14.5 ounces, diced tomatoes in their juices
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon dried Herbes de Provençe (*see note above for substitutions)
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Hot, cooked rice, for serving
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Place a pan that has a tight fitting lid (and is also oven safe) over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat briefly before adding the onions and garlic. Throw a pinch of salt in the pan and stir well. Soften the onions and garlic, lowering the heat if needed to keep from browning. When onions are mostly translucent and soft, pour in the white wine and the diced tomatoes with their juices. Stir well, increase heat to medium high and add herbs. Bring to a boil and carefully arrange the fish fillets on top of the tomatoes and onions. Put the lid on the pan and place in the oven.
Bake for 8-10 minutes for fresh fillets or 13-16 minutes for frozen fillets, depending on the thickness. When fish flakes easily with a fork, remove pan from oven. Serve immediately over hot rice with a generous amount of the pan juices and tomatoes spooned on top. You could do worse than throwing a nice fresh wedge of garlic and rosemary foccacia on the side to soak up that lovely garlic tomato sauce. To your health!