I don’t know if this is true of every family, but when I was growing up, we had some pretty weird words we used to talk about different foods – like, weird enough that no one listening in on our conversation would have any idea of what we were talking about.
Parmesan cheese, for example, was known to everyone in my household as “spungy cheese” for far longer than I would care to admit, an oddity apparently stemming from me, as a young toddler, putting a whole spoonful of grated parmesan in my house and proclaiming it to have a “spungy” flavor. (Honestly, I still feel like it’s a pretty good adjective.)
Swordfish, meanwhile, was dubbed “Daddy’s favorite fish,” which is odd, not only because it’s much longer to say than swordfish, but because apparently, swordfish isn’t my dad’s favorite fish at all. That honor falls on the fish that we always called “pinkfish,” as though it was one word, and of all of these, it’s probably the easiest one for the non-Monaco to discern.
When I was growing up, my mom had one way of making “pinkfish.” (To be fair, I think that if she’d changed it up, there would have been mutiny.) She would combine mustard, butter, and herbed breadcrumbs, and she would cover a salmon fillet in the paste. It was then broiled in the oven, cut into portion-sized pieces, and served.
Once I got my own kitchen, it was years before I thought of that recipe again. Salmon, instead, was served with an Asian-style soy glaze or with green pea purée or even just on top of a salad, à la niçoise. But some time in the past year or so, I remembered that little recipe, and I decided to give it a go again.
There was just one problem.
As you’ve all probably noticed, I eat predominantly paleo these days, especially at home. And breadcrumbs, as delicious as they are, don’t really fit the bill.
Instead of breadcrumbs, then, I decided to make this crust with crushed pistachios, which I particularly like given the way that the pink of the “pinkfish” sets off their vivid green color.
The Country Boy, however, as lovely as he is about generally eating the way that I do, does not eat paleo and abhors all variety of nuts.
So instead of cooking a whole fillet, the way my mom did, I cut the lovely trout fillet (a member of the salmon family that I can get from my lovely ruche family) into portions before applying either my topping or his to the fish. It was the perfect compromise – and a nice way to get a bit of my mom’s kitchen in mine.
Salmon (or Trout) with Pistachio (or Breadcrumb!) Crust
Note: The following recipe shows you how to make this dish if you live in a household like mine, but you could easily just use one or the other recipe and make it for your whole household.
10 ounces salmon or trout fillet
1/4 cup pistachios, crushed and chopped
1/4 cup panko
1/2 teaspoon thyme, divided
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon ghee
salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the pistachios and panko in separate small bowls. Divide the thyme and mustard evenly between them, and mix well to combine. Season each with a pinch of salt.
Spread the mustard mixture over the salmon fillets (half with each).
Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over high heat, and add the fillets, skin-side down. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then place the butter on top of the panko fillets and the ghee on top of the pistachio fillets, and place the whole skillet in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to sit in the skillet for an additional 2-3 minutes.