Another Popeye dish. But tasty and pretty enough to make even non-spinach lovers want to give it a try. First, the fish fillets are lightly browned in butter. In the remaining butter and browned bits sticking in the pan, onion and garlic are sautéed then deglazed with brandy. Yes, brandy. More full-bodied than white wine, I tell you (a tip from the nerd-is-the-new-sexy Alton Brown). Cream and yogurt are poured in, finely chopped spinach is added, everything is simmered together until lightly reduced. The fish is returned to the pan, everything is simmered a few minutes more and the dish is done. And oh, what a dish! The yogurt replaces part of the cream (which means less fat in your food) and the yogurt-cream combo is almost like sour cream.
Is it a soup or a stew? You decide.
Scared about using brandy? Well, you can read about cooking with wine first.
Fish fillets with creamy spinach sauce
- 1 bag spinach (pick the leaves and discard the stems if the stems appear tough)
- 1/2 cup milk (I used non-fat), plus more to thin the sauce
- 700 grams fish fillets (I used cream dory; see notes after the recipe), cut into two-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 3/4 cup cream
- 3/4 cup yogurt
Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper. Leave to let the fish absorb the seasonings.
Boil about eight cups of water.
Blanch the spinach just until wilted. Drain, dump in a bowl of icy water, drain again then squeeze out the excess water (see squeezing excess water from spinach).
Place the spinach in a food processor or blender, add the milk and process until finely chopped. Do NOT puree because the sauce will look like a mush of green instead of a sea of cream with specks of green.
Melt the butter in a pre-heated frying pan.
Over high heat, pan fry the fish, in batches, until lightly browned. About a minute per side, flipping to brown the opposite side. Lift out the fish cubes as they brown.
In the remaining butter, sauté the onion for about a minute. Add the garlic. Saute for another 30 seconds. Pour in the brandy and swirl the pan around (or stir the vegetables) to loosen the caramelized bits which you want to become part of the sauce.
Note here that the brandy might flame up. That’s what some cooks intentionally do but I’m too chicken to do that so I lower the heat before adding the brandy, turn it up to medium after the brandy has been added and I let the liquid boil gently until the mixture is almost dry.
Add the spinach mixture.
Pour in the cream and yogurt. Stir. If the sauce appears too lumpy, add milk little by little until you get the consistency that you prefer.
Taste the sauce. Add salt and pepper, as needed.
Simmer (uncovered, to prevent curdling) for about three minutes to allow the flavors to come together.
Return the fish to the pan.
Stir everything gently. Cook over medium heat until simmering. Lower the heat and simmer for another two minutes.
Ladle into bowls and serve hot.
You might want to use a firmer fish like maya-maya (snapper), lapu-lapu (grouper), tilapia, talakitok (trevallly) or any firm-fleshed, mild-tasting fish.