Friday, February 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Fish

When I was a young teen, my parents had their very first flush of expendable income. Once a year, they would pack my sister and I up, drop us off at Aunt Roses's and take a cheap flight to New Orleans, stay in a cheap motel and proceed to listen to jazz and dine like kings. Their last stop before the flight home was always Brennan's for brunch. They came home with matches from Brennan's and Mardi Gras trinkets which my sister and I treasured.

This week, the bloggers celebrating Gourmet's 50 Female Game-Changers in Food salute Ella Brennan. Brennan was still in high school when her brother bought a restaurant in the French Quarter - The Vieux Carre. She didn't think much of her brother's investment. The restaurant was shabby - with food that followed the decor. Her brother challenged her with,

"Well, why don't you come along and help me with it?"

And so she did. And the rest is history. Ella Brennan is now known as "The Queen of New Orleans cuisine."  Sixty-four years later, her family owns a dozen New Orleans restaurant and Ella Brennan is the matriarch. Just as she did decades ago, Brennan continues to be the student and teacher and puts in regular appearances at her restaurants. She believes in developing local, American cuisine and providing exemplary service - the perfect restaurateur. Read more about this depression baby's climb up the culinary ladder here.

Pecan Butter

I chose Ella Brennan's Trout with Pecans Ella Brennan developed the recipe with Chef Paul Prudhomme. It was their answer to trout amondine that had currently swept the culinary world. They thought - almonds? What about pecans? There's a forest of pecan trees in the south! A version of this is still on the menu at Brennan's Commander Palace.

In the end, I couldn't do it all - there was just too much butter. I am living with "He-who-is-on-the-first-diet-of-his-life" and is miserable! So I am trying to ease him into dinner time. I did one trout fillet the "Ella Brennan" way and another trout fillet the "Italian way." See which one you like - they offer different sides of the coin - but combine to be on the money.

Trout with Pecans - serves 6

Pecan Butter
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons roasted pecans
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup shrimp or fish stock
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 sticks of butter, softened

3 tablespoons salt-free Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
6-8 trout fillets

I am giving you the entire recipe - but I skipped the sauce. Sauteing the fish in butter and then spreading pecan butter on top of the warm fish was enough butter for me! But as you will see below - you are supposed to saute in butter, spread pecan butter over the fish and then top with the sauce. Oh my!

1. Pecan butter: Place all pecan butter ingredients into the container of a food processor or blender. Cover and process to a smooth puree. Set aside.
2. Sauce: In a small bowl, combine flour and 2 Tbs. water to make a smooth paste. In a small saucepan, bring stock, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice to a light boil.
3. Whisk about 1/3 cup of the hot stock mixture into the flour paste. Then gradually pour the flour mixture back into the saucepan, stirring constantly with the whisk, and bring to a boil. Whisk in the softened butter, a tablespoon at a time. Keep sauce warm.
4. To prepare the fish, blend the Creole seasoning and salt into the flour in a wide bowl. Beat the eggs with the milk in a second wide bowl.
5. Dust the trout lightly with the seasoned flour. Pass it through the egg wash, and then dredge it through the seasoned flour.
6. In a large skillet, heat half of the clarified butter over medium-high heat until a sprinkling of flour sizzles in it. Add three fillets of trout and sate three or four minutes, until golden brown, turning once. Transfer fillets to serving platter and keep warm. Add the rest of the butter to the pan and sate the remaining trout.
7. Spread pecan butter over trout, sprinkle with roasted pecans, and top with the sauce.
I won't lie to you - even without the rich buttery sauce this was absolutely delicious. Sated, sweet sighs at the dinner table told me so. The pecans caramelized a bit during the saute and nobody ever said a butter sauce didn't tantalize. It's wonderfully wicked.
Now, the Italian way:
For each trout fillet, whisk 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Add: 1-2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, or oregano or basil or parsley or a combination of your favorite fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning. Salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 350 degrees F until done - 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the trout.) If I was thinking, I would have thrown some roasted, chopped hazelnuts on top.

A song of spring.

A word about pecans: in days of yore, I did summer stock in Flat Rock, North Carolina. I met a friend who later stayed with me in my tiny NYC apartment. As a thank-you - she sent me a huge box of fresh pecans - just picked from her tree. I brought them to my family and we wondered what to do with all those pecans. In the end, we simply ate them over the course of one weekend. I had never had a pecan that didn't come in a package and the fresh nutmeats were a welcome revelation. I can still remember my fingers and toes waking up to each rich bite.

A word about diets: Years ago, my cousin and her husband went on a diet together. She went to Weight Watchers and he gave up his daily Dove Bar. Guess who lost more weight?

Please check out what the other bloggers are doing for Week 33 of Female Chef Gourmet Game Changers. And if you want to join in the fun, e-mail Mary at  One Perfect Bite. Mary started this delectable journey. 

Susan - The Spice GardenHeather - girlichef,
Miranda - Mangoes and ChutneyJeanette - Healthy Living
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds


Mister Meatball said...

I've had the pleasure of meeting Mrs Brennan a couple of times. Another life.

You can't go wrong with pecans, not in my book.

Sprigs of Rosemary said...

I think the getaways your parents had are the best -- splurge on the food and entertainment! I only got a brief taste of New Orleans once and I loved it. A taste of this fish would be great. (Yeah, the hazelnuts would have been good.)

Bubbe Bites said...

Both recipes look great. My hubbie to is on a diet. He keeps cheating and cant understand why he is not loosing weight. I may make your version of this fish recipe. It would be great for lent. Thanks for sharing with us.

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

What an amazing story of Ella Brennan. I actually never heard of her name until now. I learned a little bit more about New Orleans cuisine today. :-) Pecan butter sounds very interesting! It sounds and looks very delicious!

Alyce said...

Using local ingredients!! In Minnesota, we'd have to use walleye and walnuts. I'm with you about the sauce, though--just sounded like gilding the lily to me. The husband lost more weight, huh?

Claudia said...

Actually, the trout was local - from up north - rainbow lake trout. This is the season for it - if you don't mind sitting on the ice!

Heather S-G said...

Wow, that is total decadence! Trout is one of my favorite fish and even though I didn't make it this week, I'll be trying it one of these days. :D

Barbara said...

I love the dish two ways! :) The pecan way is sheer decadence! The Italian way fewer calories, but both look great to me. Miss Ella was a fun game changer!

TinaRBK said...

Great to learn more about the Queen of New Orleans cuisine. Both of these recipes sure do look delicious. Nuts with fish is always a tasty dish and the lighter one does look amazing. Thanks for sharing these! Regarding the diets, I am sure hubby lost the most. For some reason I think it is easier for men to lose weight than women! Enjoy the weekend!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a unique approach to solving the dieter's dilemma. Now to show you my mother raised no foolish children, I think both versions sound wonderful. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

P.S To answer your question. I'd love to have a drink with her though I suspect it wouldn't be tea :-).

Amrita said...

Wow! That is one rich dish, the pecan butter is calling out my name! I know it'd kill my heart in a few minutes but, I'm sure it would totally be worth it! Hehehe

Mireya Merritt said...

I love trout and I love pecans. This sounds like a winning recipe.

Barbara GF said...

The pecan butter sounds rich and enticing, Claudia. I wonder how it would pair with pasta? And I'm guessing the one who gave up the Dove Bar lost the most weight, right?

Claudia said...

Let's just say my cousin's husband lost his weight a lot faster than my cousin. With little deprivation beyond his daily Dove Bar!

Cucina49 said...

I definitely ate at Brennan's when I lived in NOLA, but I don't remember this fish--what a classic French preparation with a Louisiana twist!

Torviewtoronto said...

interesting looks wonderful

Sudha said...

Dear Claudia,
That was such an interesting read on Ella Brennan - nice to know about her:)And your fish recipe sounds very interesting too!Fish with pecans - that would be something so new. I've used nuts with my chicken and meats and generously in my desserts so far,but I've never given a thought to how it would taste with fish.So will surely give this a try!Have a great weekend!

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

Besides two fabulous recipes (I vote for both!) you have such interesting tidbits in this post. When my hubby wants to lose weight, he just gives up his evening Oreos :/

PS...still don't know who the heck Tatum Channing is, but my daughter thinks I should!

Catherine said...

Dear Claudia, I will take one today and the other tomorrow. I think that line is from Popeye, (Wimpy with the hamburgers.) I would love to have both versions. I love the simplicity of the taste on the Italian version and the vavoom version from New Orleans. Blessings my dear friend, Catherine xo

chow and chatter said...

fun recipe but I am with it too much butter

Angie's Recipes said...

Both recipes have turned out great. Never had pecan butter...I must get some pecans soon to try.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I've been looking forward to your post on Miss Ella and to see what dish you would make. I too love New Orleans and especially the food. My taste has changed since I first fell in love with their food and now I find it most often too rich for my liking and only have a tiny taste or two.

I'm with you on the trout with pecans - too much butter. We just don't eat that way anymore. I would have had to modify it too and your Italian version, in my opinion, is so much healthier and prettier too.

Happy Valentines day.

Anne said...

New Orleans is a wonderful place to visit. The food and the music especially the Jazz Festival, that I went to in my 20's.
The trout recipe looks easy and delicious. I imagine you can use those ingredients with other kinds of fish.

Anonymous said...

Waw, What festive pecan butterred trout! Yum!


i would like to try the first one with pecan butter... sounds so butery-cious! haha.
happy weekend Claudia, and thank you for the blog love... as always.

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

I love pecan crusted chicken I cant wait to try this one.. i love them both... amazing photo mouth watering ... oozing with fantastic flavor!

Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. said...

I typically go the lemon route with my fish, but I need some new ideas and your pecan butter sauce sounds tasty!

Jeannie said...

I can't decide which version is better than, both look melt in the mouth delicious!

Mari Nuñez said...

Claudia, honestly, I never would of thought of fish and pecan together, but it looks amazing. I am sure it tastes like heaven :)

Erica said...

Wow!Fish and pecans.....It sounds delicious and interesting!

Reeni said...

Love the sound of the pecan butter! I could eat either version and be perfectly happy. They both sound delicious and fish is always a treat for me!

Beth said...

What an interesting post! I've eaten at Brennan's but didn't know the story behind Ella Brennan. I had one of my best breakfasts ever there (and I think it held me over for about three days).

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

It certainly sounds like a feast fit for the queen of New Orleans herself.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

On a trip to New Orleans years ago my daughter and I had breakfast at Brennan's. It was the most expensive breakfast I had in my life, but what an experience, complete with bananas flambe!

Your trout looks so good both ways, Claudia. I like the unusual pecans and fish combination. I bet pecans would taste equally well with salmon or tilipia.

FOODESSA said...

I have to say...the first recipe has me quite excited. The combo may be a little longer than I expected...however, a definite add to my fish meal list. Thanks Claudia for sharing this one ;o)

Have a great week,

Magic of Spice said...

Great tribute to Ella Brennan, will have to check out your link to more of the history. And what a great story there is behind her.
You chose a lovely recipe with such great flavors, beautiful!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those look so mouthwatering! I love fish and especially trout so much...