I was fortunate to have an hour to myself in the kitchen to begin dinner preparation before the other five people arrived to enjoy it. As I stood in the solitude of my kitchen rinsing the fish under cold water, I stopped to admire the beauty of the fish in my hands. The skin glistened underneath the water. The body felt smooth and firm and as I turned it over and around running my hands across the smooth skin, I could find no sign of blemish. The gills were bright red and the eyes were clear and black. This fish looked as if I had just picked it up out of the water.
As I admired the fish, I was reminded of one of the most important principles in Ayurveda, India's system for health and healing, which is to eat fresh food which is freshly prepared. Behind this principle is the belief that we get Parana, or life force, from our food. So it stands to reason that eating a fresh, healthy animal would provide more health and vitality than eating an animal that had been sitting on ice for several days. The only way I could have done better by this fish was to have cooked and eaten it yesterday right after I picked it up.
After I was done rinsing off and admiring the fish, I stuffed it with fennel fronds, lemon wedges, parsley and leeks and then rubbed the outer flesh with olive oil and put it in the oven at 375 degrees.
Over a glass of wine, I prepared the sauce I would use for the fish. This recipe comes from another blogger, Heather Atwood, who writes The Food for Thought Blog for the Gloucester Times. In her post on October 10th, she wrote about Pollock, another round fish like Haddock, and provided the following sauce recipe:
Fresh Red Chili and Parsley Sauce:
6 fresh chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup chopped parsley
1 garlic clove peeled and finely chopped
course sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of two lemons
Combine the chili, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover with olive oil, and then lemon juice. Let sit for ten minutes, stir and serve over fish.
The parsley in this recipe combined with the lemon juice gives this sauce a fresh, bright flavor. The chili pepper and garlic give it a spicy kick which is tempered by the olive oil. As a whole the sauce is crisp and lively, which I think brightens the subtle flavor of the haddock. My neighbor's and family really enjoyed it.
The first time I served the sauce with pollack, I combined with extra sauce to the fish cakes I generally make using the leftover fish.
Like cooking a whole chicken, you can get several other meals out of a whole fish. While I am cleaning up after our fish meal, I toss the bones, head and tail from the fish into a stock pot with white wine and fresh herbs. I use the stock for Asian noodle soups. In our house, one whole round fish generally provides an entree for our family of four (I include my Mom), a leftover meal of fish cakes and stock for at least two to three soups.