Bagna Cauda French Beans & Tilapia

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So many happy family memories are tied to food. Boeuf bourgignon reminds me of the no-kids-allowed dinner parties my parents would throw, the rich scent wafting upstairs as the grown ups chuckled around the dining table. Serving brownies instead of cake at my brother's birthdays because they are his all-time favorite. My sister and I shucking corn on my grandparents' back deck in summers as my grandfather fired up the grill for swordfish steaks, my grandmother mixing up the most perfect sauce for the fish. It's an old secret family recipe. I do not remember an occasion growing up where fish was served without this sauce on the table.

I was having a nostalgic day last week thinking about Thanksgiving and essentially planned dinner around The Family Sauce. I gave J a short shopping list: tilapia and French beans. I loved my grandmother dearly, but she was absolutely dreadful at preparing green beans - they were always mushy and overcooked. Still, these were created in her honor.

I preheated the oven to 350° and prepared two baking sheets with tin foil. On one, I placed the two fillets of tilapia (about a pound total), drizzled a little olive oil on top, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and some ground coriander. On the other, I tossed the French beans and a sliced shallot in a touch of oil and laid them out flat.

Both went into the oven for 15 minutes. Around minute 10, I started the bagna cauda (anchovy butter) for the beans. I put 3 anchovy fillets, two tablespoons of unsalted butter, and a shake or two of crushed red pepper into a deep sauce pan. The butter and anchovies melted together as I stirred and the whole kitchen was overpowered with a rich, salty aroma. When the melted butter mixture starts to slightly darken in color, remove the pan from heat. At this point (about minute 13), I took the beans out of the oven and tossed them to cover with the bagna cauda.

The legendary family sauce? It's ketchup and mayonnaise. Mixed together. That is is and it is perfect, especially on a light flaky fish like the tilapia. The simply seasoned fish, the ultra retro sauce, and the easy-but-fancy beans all made for a filling and flavorful weeknight meal in under 30 minutes.

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