Bad Recipe, Good Result

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I have a cousin, Jimmy, who sends me (and a few of our other cousins) recipes. He does this often - several times per week. Jimmy is retired. (What is this thing called “retired?”)

Jimmy’s recipes range from traditional Greek recipes to American comfort food. I don’t know his sources. I picture him in front of his computer, perusing different sites, saving the ones he likes and sending them along. I review them all. Once in a while, I try them and send him my thoughts. Here’s what I sent him after making “Crab Stuffed Fish With Lemon Cream Sauce,” slightly edited for public consumption, given that I’m a judicial candidate and all.

All: I made this recipe tonight. First what drove me crazy: it’s sloppy. Direction #2 says, “Add garlic ...” but nowhere in the ingredients list does it mention garlic. The opposite occurs for the lemon cream sauce, when it lists cornstarch as an ingredient but nowhere mentions it again in the directions.

Now what I liked about it. It’s fabulous. Everything about this recipe is amazing. The lemon cream sauce is especially incredible.

I used a line-caught yelloweye tuna from Alaska that I get through my Fish Club (yes I belong to some important clubs) and some good quality lump crab meat from Whole Foods (best I could get in Michigan). I was pretty faithful to the recipe, except instead of the mystery garlic I used shallots, and I sauteed them with the other ingredients listed in direction #2.

I made crabcakes with the leftover crab, as I only stuffed one large fillet of fish instead of four, so I had a lot of crab mixture left over. I added one beaten egg and a teaspoon of Old Bay to the it, made patties, and sauteed them a few minutes on each side in a mix of butter and olive oil.

The lemon cream sauce is lighter than you may think. Only a little butter and one tablespoon of flour (for four servings). It’s a cup each of broth and half and half and a little cornstarch to thicken it. You could probably make a passable version without the half and half or with nonfat Greek yogurt instead.

But last night, I made as listed in the recipe, and — oh my. Shoot me, I didn’t lighten it, and yes, I put cream in it. It was just perfect in taste and texture. I love the zip the Dijon mustard gives it. (You do have to tend to it over the stove ... it’s high maintenance.) I put the sauce it on the fish. I put it on the crabcakes. I put it on the asparagus and I put it on my wife’s leftover rice from No Thai, moistened with extra broth and studded with raw cashews. I even put the sauce on my fingers before I washed the pan. I even managed to have some leftover for the crabcakes I’m going to make tomorrow.

The main event, the fish stuffed with the crab mixture, was really good. I would moisten the fish with a touch of olive oil before I roll it and stuff it. By the way, it was way too thick to hold together with toothpicks; I used wooden chopsticks (from No Thai, natch’) and you could also use kebob rods. But it was delicious as is, maybe with a squeeze of lemon, and of course that lemon cream sauce. Top it all with lots of fresh chopped parsley.

I served it with a Rombauer 2018 Carneros Chardonnay. Rombauer is one of my very favorites. It’s expensive but worth it. It’s like drinking buttery grass while laying down in a field, soaking up the sun, not giving a damn about anything else.

I ended up eating so much my stomach hurt. You know, when food is so good you don’t want to stop. But stop I must. Only after couple of fat medjool dates for dessert. Then I retired to the porch with one last glass of wine and my pipe. That’s cherry tobacco, for you nosy types. Yes, that kind of pipe.

Love you all. Survive the pandemic. Better days are ahead.

Crab-Stuffed Fish with Lemon Cream Sauce
(corrected) - Peter Minaki
(serves 4)

4 fish fillets (haddock, sole or other white fish fillet), skinless

olive oil

salt and pepper

Crab Stuffing

1 cup (250 gr.) lump crab meat

2 Tbsp. olive oil

3/4 cup sliced scallions

1/4 finely chopped celery

1/2 cup diced red pepper

1 minced shallot

1 tsp. Dijon Mustard

1 Tbsp. mayonnaise

2 tsp. finely chopped tarragon

2 tsp. finely chopped parsley

1 tsp. sweet paprika

1/4 cup bread crumbs

salt and pepper to taste

Lemon Cream Sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil or unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. grated onion

1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard

1 Tbsp. flour

1 cups vegetable or seafood or chicken stock

juice of half a lemon

1 cup cream

1 Tbsp. corn starch diluted in cold water

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1. Pre-heat oven to 375F. Take fish out of fridge, pat-dry, brush with a touch of olive oil, and season both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. In a skillet, add olive oil over medium-low heat. Add scallions, shallot, celery and peppers and sweat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely.

3. To the same bowl, add the crab meat, mustard, mayo, tarragon, parsley, paprika, bread crumbs. Mix gently with a spoon. Taste, add salt and pepper to taste.

4. To ensure that your rolls retain their shape, place the fillets with the outside side of the fillet facing up (this side will be stuffed). Make four balls of crab filling and place on larger end of each fish and roll up. Secure with toothpicks or kebab rods.

5. Place your fish upright on parchment-lined baking sheet, place in your pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, make your lemon cream sauce buy placing a medium pot on your stove-top over medium heat. Add butter, once melted add onions and mustard, flour and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add stock, lemon juice and cream and bring up to a boil. Add diluted cornstarch, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10-12 minutes or until thickened.

7. Take off heat, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the chopped parsley. Carefully lift the fish off the baking sheet and transfer to plates, remove toothpicks. Spoon sauce over each fish.

If you make just two fillets of fish you will have enough crab mixture left over for crabcakes. As noted, add one beaten egg and a touch of Old Bay, shape into patties, and saute four minutes on each side over medium-low heat. You can serve them as appetizers for your dinner, or as I did, the next morning for crabcakes benedict: top an English muffin with a little mashed avocado, wilted spinach, a crabcake, a poached egg, and some of that leftover lemon cream sauce. A slice of bacon makes it even better.

Thanks, Jimmy, for upping my culinary game. Now about joining you in retirement: hopefully not for a long while.


Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil rights litigation. He has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at Twitter or Facebook @nickroumel, or Instagram @nroumel. He is also a candidate for Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge (nickforjudge.com).


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