Valentine's Day from the Farmers' Market
Trout Pecandine

Forget diamonds, roses, chocolate. Preparing an elegant meal may be the most intimate, caring, ney even romantic, way to show those we love just how much they mean on Valentine's Day, or any day.

But elegant need not be overly-fussy or complicated. Simple yet sophisticated, this Trout Pecandine will impress your special guest, and get you out of the kitchen in short order.

Dinner for 2, naturally.

Allow one Rainbow Trout, boned, per 1-2 people. These gorgeous filets were prepared for the Mueller Farmers' Market, Austin, courtesy of K & S Seafood. (If you choose to serve this entree with a salad of mixed greens dressed with a simple vinaigrette, and perhaps a some roasted asparagus, you'll be safe with one fish per piece. If you plan to serve an additional appetizer or soup, a heavier side dish, a starch, and/or dessert, 1/2 fish per person will be plenty. Remember to keep it light. It's Valentine's Day, wink, wink.) Gather 1/4 cup finely milled cornmeal (We used OrganicareFarms freshly milled cornmeal. It's the best kept farmers' market secret, but it won't be for long!), 1/8 cup flour, 1 tsp. kosher salt, a few grinds of the peppermill, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, 1/4 cup pecan halves, 1/4 cup unsalted butter, 1 whole lemon.

Browned butter, also known as beurre noisette, is the base of this Pecandine sauce, infused with toasted pecans and fresh thyme.

In a heavy skillet (Have a mentioned my passion for cast iron?), combine thyme, pecans, and butter over medium heat. Melt butter, stirring occasionally, and maintain sauce at a rolling simmer, stirring more frequently. Butter will foam as water is released, and then begin separating slightly-- the milk solids will seperate and begin to brown, and the butter will become a dark amber. Stir constantly at this stage, monitoring pecans as butter browns, removing them when they are toasted to a dark brown. Remove sauce from the heat. It will continue to cook, so give it an occasional stir as you prepare the fish.

I prepared this fresh Rainbow Trout courtesy of market vendor K & S Seafood, for the Mueller Farmers' Market in Austin.

Wash filets and lightly pat dry. In a mixing bowl, dredge each side of filet with cornmeal and flour, which has been combined well and seasoned with 1 tsp kosher salt, and several turns of the peppermill, In a separate heavy skillet, coat pan with oil to a depth of approximately 1/4 inch.until oil warms to a shimmer, and gives off a very faint smoke. Add dredged filet skin side down, carefully. Cooking one filet at a time, until flesh is opaque, about 2-3 minutes, preventing sticking by sliding under fillet with a fish spatula. Again very carefully, assure that skin and light batter has a light crisp, and turn when golden brown. Cook 1-2 minutes on the opposite side, or until golden brown. Remove to parchment lined pan to rest and repeat with second fish. Remove to plate. Sprinkle with a scant dust of salt. Give a light once-over squeeze of a lemon half.

Serve with a buttery Chardonnay, Sancerre, or Riesling. I might make a vinaigrette with dijon and the zest and juice of a lemon, minced shallots, maybe even a finely minced anchovy filet, and stir in one full head of flat leaf parsely washed and dried well, chopped, removing larger stems.I'd add thinly sliced radishes and shavings of a salty parmigiano reggiano, and serve in a nest of butter lettuce. Dessert? Creme Brulee with fresh berries, if you're ambitious, or close to a trusted bakery. A scoop of lemon sorbetto with raspberries and just a tease of candlied sliced almonds, dusted over a little dollop of whipped cream, maybe. Or two spoons and heads touching over a pint of Cherry Garcia. That's my favorite.  

Music? Van MorrisonBillie Holiday, and Otis Redding. Room enough for a slow sway on bare floors. Oh yeah. We're pulling out the big guns.

Happy Valentine's Day, young lovers.

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