“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

30 July 2011

Poisson Florentine

Ok, I admit it, I have made this recipe before.  A lot.  It's one of my family's favorites and a great way to get kids to eat a little more healthy.  Strangely enough, even my vegetable hater will eat this, although he does push some of the spinach aside in favor of the cheese and the fish.  I debated whether to share this recipe or not since it doesn't really follow the point of the blog, but hey, some of you may try it and like it.  (Disclaimer: the author of this blog takes no responsibility for recipes tried and found unpalatable to any or all readers.)  And we all have those days where we fall back on the tried and familiar, right?

Ok, a couple of things before we get started.  First, this recipe feeds four.  Four, if none of the four eating are very hungry.  I always double it - just use a 9x13" dish - and I still have to augment with other food to satisfy everyone.  Also, before cooking this, or any, recipe make sure you have all the ingredients you need.  Ug.  I went to make the sauce and found myself on a quick trip to Target for milk.  Again.  Why is it we're always running out of milk?  And why is it that unnamed members of my family seem to think it's perfectly reasonable to put the last carton of milk back in the fridge with only 2 tablespoons of liquid left in it - without bothering to tell mom (who is responsible for purchasing said milk) that we need more?  Lovely shock on those mornings when I already have cereal in my bowl.

Another interesting tidbit: some of you might have noticed the name of this recipe is in French.  That does not mean this is a fancy French dish that's going to be difficult to make.  It is VERY easy.  It just means fish and spinach.  Anything "florentine" means it's cooked with spinach, but saying "florentine" instead makes it more palatable to some family members when they ask what that green stuff is.

Ok, enough digression.  On to the recipe!  (Which I've colored for those of you who just want the recipes and don't want to be bothered by my verbososity.  Hey, it's a word!  Ok, it's not, but it ought to be.  It's descriptive and fun to say.  Say it with me, verb-os-ity.  See?)

Poisson Florentine 
4 servings
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon
pepper (or lemon pepper) to taste (remember you're adding lemon juice too)
1 cup milk
2/3 cup shredded Swiss or Cheddar cheese
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pound fish fillets, cut into serving pieces
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Heat butter over low heat until melted; stir in flour, bouillon and pepper.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat.  Stir in milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir 1 minute.  Add cheese; cook, stirring constantly, just until cheese is melted.

Place spinach in ungreased oblong baking dish, 12x7½x2 inches, or square baking dish, 8x8x2 inches; sprinkle with lemon juice.  Arrange fish on spinach; sprinkle with salt.  Spread sauce over fish and spinach.  Cook uncovered in 350° oven until fish flakes easily with fork, 20 to 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  (This is optional, but tastes yum, especially if your parm is fresh.)

Ok, a few notes:
1- I am a firm believer in REAL food.  Real butter, real whipping cream, real sugar.  I think your body knows what to do with real food, as opposed to things like synthetic or physically altered fats (hydrogenated oils like those found in margarine, Crisco, Cool Whip, Oreos - YIKES!) - so I will always include ingredients that contain real food.  Ok, almost always.  I do like an Oreo now and then, especially in ice cream.  Anyway, when the recipe says butter, I use butter, and so my results may differ from yours if you use margarine.  But if you like margarine, hey, knock yourself out.

2- I think this recipe turns out better if you use lower fat-containing cheeses like Swiss.  I have made it with cheddar and it turns out just fine, just a little greasier.  (Which, face it, can taste pretty good.)  If using cheddar we think it tastes better to replace about 1/4 cup of the cheddar with fresh Parmesan.  I buy a blend (parm, asiago, and a couple of others) in the refrigerated section of Sam's Club in a big carton that lasts several months so it's always handy.  Here's a link for those who are interested.  Bella Collina 4 Cheese Blend

3- Last night I found that I only had Swiss slices.  Have you ever tried to grate a cheese slice?  Not worth it.  Don't ask me how I know this, I just know this.  I just broke the cheese slices up and added them to the rue.  (Sorry, that's a sauce made from butter and flour.)  Took a bit longer to melt, but it turned out just find.  Be careful not to add too much cheese though.  It tastes nice but makes for a sticky sauce instead of a nice smooth one.

3- Ah the convenience of frozen spinach.  Put the whole package in your fridge the night before in a baggie to prevent leaks.  I've never tried this with fresh spinach but I suppose you could if you blanch it before putting it in the dish.

4- I usually use tilapia, although every other fish I've tried works out just as well.  I found some nice tilapia at Sam's club.  Here's a link for this too, so you know what I'm talking about: Treasures from the Sea Tilapia  Put it in the fridge the night before so it's thawed.  Tastes much better that way than the "quick thaw" suggestion on the back of the bag, which I think leaves a strong "fishy", dirty taste.

5- For the salt, I usually use sea salt.  Hey, it's fish, right?  hehe

And I have pictures!  Ok, not step-by-step pictures, that would require you seeing too much of my kitchen, which may or may not meet your personal cleanliness standards.  Of course my kitchen is CLEAN!  I mean, would I cook for or feed my family in a dirty kitchen?  Never!  I'm offended that you could even think I might!  Anyway, my oldest kept asking me why I was taking pictures of food.  I told him I'd show him why today.  So here they are:

Yummy nummy from the side.  The fish kind of blends into the cheese sauce so it's hard to see.  And NO that is not all cheese sauce!  You do get a great image of the spinach... uh... florentine.  (Please ignore my uneven placement thereof.)

 Hot and bubbly from the top.  Mmm.  Cheesy, buttery, lemon peppery goodness!

For the hungry little (and big) monsters I added some hot, crusty rolls.  Aren't I the great little baker?  Ok, I was going to bake my own rolls, but I used up my time at Target buying milk, so a nod goes to Rhodes for their heat & serve crusty rolls.  Soft and squishy inside, crumbly crusty outside.  Paired with, of course, a pat of melty butter.

All nicely laid out on the plate and ready to eat!

I whipped up (literally!) some fresh whipped cream.  When using real cream when I know there will be left-overs I like to add a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar.  It keeps the cream from going runny in the fridge and helps keep the animals happy.  And a splash of Mexican vanilla.  Sadly, that's about all I have left.  I really need to get some more...

Dolloped onto a slice of warm razzleberry pie.  Thanks for joining us for dinner Marie Calendar!  Did you know you can get this stuff from the store?  It's in the freezer section.  No need to take a tin into the restaurant.  Lucky, lucky husband!

So there you are.  A yummy, well-rounded dinner that made for full tummies and happy mouths.  I'd love to hear your questions or comments, especially if you try this out.

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