The first meal together + poached sturgeon with mustard beurre blanc and snap peas
Can I hug you?
We get to see our friends soon! Not outside with masks far away, but inside our homes. With no masks. We can see our friends’ chins inside of our houses.
Maybe most of your friends are selfless angels who all work in health care or social work or in a school teaching little kids — as is the case with our friends. Or, maybe your friends maintained jobs in the food industry throughout this devastating year and were finally, thankfully offered the vaccine to keep them safe in their essential jobs. Maybe your parents are over 65 and you spent hours refreshing the appointment page for them and it worked. Maybe your friends do none of those things but will be eligible for a vaccine in about a month. Either way, our hope for you is that like us, the people you love the most dearly are one by one getting vaccinated, which means you’re one step closer to hugging them tightly, inviting them inside, and even serving them at your dining room table (or couch/coffee table, if you’re REALLY like us).
With the news that fully vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks, and the rollout of vaccines picking up speed, the time to invite your friends inside for a meal and a hug is nearer than ever.
It’s different to invite someone inside your house to eat. We’ve all had fun eating on the hoods of our cars or stretched out across picnic blankets at the park. But soon we get to experience the most special thing of all: making someone dinner, setting the table for them, and pouring wine — all cozy inside.
We found ways to adapt and to mimic closeness this year. But let’s be real: A Facetime isn’t a lunch date with your sister. And going for a walk isn’t watching a movie with your best friend when she’s sad. A Zoom drink with your coworkers isn’t getting drunk and bonding over who you hate in the office. We finally (FINALLY) get to feel close to people again in the ways we’ve been starved of for so long.
To celebrate this change back into normalcy (which, for the record, we have found to be easily as challenging as it is joyous), we wanted to share a recipe with you that feels extra special and frankly doesn’t work well distanced and outside. This is a meal that is delicate and beautiful and absolutely meant to be eaten around a table that’s been set with wine glasses, silverware, and some sliced up bread on a shared plate. It’s the anti-quarantine meal for the day we get to be near.
This recipe calls for sturgeon. You might not be used to cooking with it (we weren’t either) but now that we’ve futzed around with it a bit we’ve found it’s great and special for so many reasons. It’s WHITE FISH? MEATY? SUBSTANTIAL? NOT CRAZY EXPENSIVE? Sign us up! It’s just different enough to mark an occasion — the best occasion we’ve had in a whole year.
Poached sturgeon with mustard beurre blanc and snap peas
Sturgeon is a fish prized for its roe, and the meat is often forgotten — aside from maybe smoked and sliced thin on a bagel. It has a firm, meaty texture reminiscent of poultry, and a clean, mild flavor. You don’t see it on many restaurant menus and it’s not the most common at fishmongers either, but farmed sturgeon is a sustainable and uniquely delicious option. You can also easily swap out halibut for sturgeon in this dish.
This recipe is an exercise in multitasking. You can prepare each component one by one if you’re more comfortable that way, but it comes together easily if you work on the court bouillon (poaching liquid) while the leeks are cooking down. The leeks and fish will finish around the same time and the sauce and snap peas just take a couple minutes. Don’t stress too hard about the fish cooling down — a warm sauce goes a long way.
2 4oz sturgeon or halibut filets, skinless
1 teaspoon salt, plus more
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large leek, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced thinly crosswise
½ cup white wine
1 medium shallot, cut into thick slices
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, cut in half
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola
½ lb snap peas, ends trimmed and strings removed
Season the fish with salt on both sides and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the other components.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and add leek. Season with pinch of salt. Sauté briefly and then add 2 tablespoons water. Stir constantly and whenever it appears to dry out, add water again. You want them to be fully softened and come together almost into a paste. This will take around 30 minutes. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine ½ cup white wine, 1½ cup water, shallot, thyme, bay leaf, lemon (squeeze the juice into the liquid as it goes in), and black peppercorns. Bring to a boil and then simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.
Gently lower the fish into the liquid, keeping it at a low simmer, and cover. Poach for 5–6 minutes, until a toothpick slides easily all the way through the fish. Remove the fish and set aside. Strain the liquid and reserve.
Return ½ cup of the poaching liquid to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat until barely starting to simmer. Whisking constantly, add 1 cube of butter at a time, waiting until one melts before adding the next. When all the butter is added and melted, turn off the heat and whisk in the Dijon mustard. You should have a slightly thickened sauce that coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and set aside.
In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until starting to smoke. Add snap peas and sauté for about 1 minute until lightly browned and no longer raw. Season to taste with salt.
To plate, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the melted leeks onto the center of the plate. Place the fish on top of the leeks and arrange the peas on the side. Spoon sauce over the top of the fish and serve.
If you make a recipe from our newsletter, please tag us in pictures! You can find us on Instagram at @littlefish_echopark. If you’re in LA, our next fish fry is Saturday, 3/27. We’re doing a lunch special and you can learn more on our Instagram. Orders open Monday, 3/22 at 6pm PST. A portion of our profits goes directly to on-the-ground, community organizations — you’ve helped us send money to No Us Without You, Heart of Dinner, and Send Chinatown Love. We’ll be announcing next week’s organization on Instagram this week — thank you so much for your suggestions!