Regardless of one’s religious bent, the season of Lent presents plenty of opportunity to try new seafood dishes. For those abstaining from meat, a fresh idea on the dinner table can help prevent boredom with the same fish dishes over and over for 40 days. For everyone else, it’s simply a healthier meal option—never a bad idea, and especially when we are headed into Spring.
This nutritious, colorful dish has lots of flavor (and heat, if you want it), but is easy on effort, calories and budget. You can have it on the table in under half an hour, too!
Rainbow chard is one of nature’s superfoods, a leafy green packed with vitamin K (good for our bones), iron (for healthy blood cell production), antioxidants (to reduce inflammation) and manganese (for brain and nerve support). On top of the health benefits, chard is very versatile in the kitchen. It can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed or braised. You can add it to everything from soup to an omelet, or even use its leaves to wrap up other ingredients, the way you might use cabbage leaves. I braised it this time, and made it a bed for a crispy, pan-fried trout fillet.
I used the whole chard in this dish, but I separated and chopped the hard stems to give them a 5-minute head start in the pan. To save time chopping the leaves, I stacked and rolled them, and then sliced the roll like a giant chiffonade.
The stems were sautéed in a bit of extra virgin olive oil along with a couple scallions (the only onions I had in the house that day), and then I lined up three of my favorite complementary flavors—coconut milk, spicy Asian Reds pepper flakes and ginger. One of my favorite freezer-section discoveries has been these little cubes of crushed ginger. I can never use up a whole root (even a small one), and these come in very handy.
When the chard stems were tender, I added the leaves a handful at a time and cooked them until they wilted. My coconut milk had a ton of oil solids floating on top, so I scooped those out for another use* (see my note about this after the pictures)—and only the liquid went into the pot to braise the chard. After only a few minutes, the coconut milk softened up and absorbed some of the color from the chard stems. I love the way these ingredients merge together!
*You may as well know, when I say that I set aside some portion of an ingredient “for another use,” it often means I put it into the refrigerator and flat out forget about it. I cannot count the times I have dug around in there, looking for something else, and realized that I missed the freshness deadline on some ingredient I was sure I’d use. If I’d had a can of “light” coconut milk, this would not have been an issue. The full-fat version of coconut milk tends to add a stronger coconut flavor (not what I was going for). Anyway—
I sprinkled the trout fillets with salt and pepper, and then gave them a flip in flour sprinkled with more of the Asian Reds pepper flakes. I fried them in a little oil until crispy and browned, and then plated the fish on top of the chard and spooned the lingering coconut milk over the top. If you don’t mind a few carbs alongside, this would be great with steamed rice.
So, I’ve called my dish “double rainbow” because the fish counter at my supermarket had labeled this trout as “rainbow trout,” though I didn’t notice any signature rainbow stripes on these fillets. Sometimes, I get the feeling my supermarket is fibbing a little bit, or maybe they don’t know the difference, or they think we don’t. The bottom line is that any trout will be fine for this dish, and of course, another delicate flaky fish could also be substituted.
But I went with it because who doesn’t love a double rainbow?
Double Rainbow Trout & Chard
Rainbow trout + rainbow chard = A doubly delicious weeknight meal that is inexpensive, easy to prepare and packed with nutrition.
- 1 small bunch rainbow chard
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (one for cooking greens and the other for frying trout)
- 1/4 cup chopped onion (sweet, yellow, leek, shallot or scallion would all work)
- Salt and pepper
- A shake or two of crushed red pepper, to taste (I love the Asian Red blend from Flatiron Pepper Co.)
- 1 tsp. finely minced ginger (or a shortcut, like the frozen cubes of ginger)
- 1 cup coconut milk (the canned culinary variety, preferably “light”)
- 2 fresh trout fillets
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for dusting the trout fillets)
- Cut out stems of the chard and chop into small pieces. Stack the leaves and roll up tightly like a cigar, and then slice into strips.
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a small skillet over medium heat. Add the chard stems and onions, season with salt and pepper, and sauté for about five minutes, until slightly tender. Add chard leaves to the pan, along with red pepper and ginger. Cook a few minutes, until leaves are wilted.
- Add coconut milk, reduce heat and cover. Allow chard to braise about 15 minutes while you prepare the trout fillets.
- Pat fillets dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle flour onto a plate or paper towel, and add a few more shakes of red pepper flakes if you like spicy flavors. Press the flesh side of the fish down onto the flour to coat, and then shake off excess.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add the remaining oil and twirl the pan to coat. Place trout fillets, flesh side down, into the hot skillet and cook until fish is crispy and golden, about 4 minutes. Carefully turn fillets and cook the skin side for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Plate the braised greens and top with trout. Spoon extra coconut milk sauce over the top of fish and serve at once.