Bringing back Sunday dinner {new series}: Herb-Roasted Striped Bass

It may have been the children’s book, Farmer Boy, that made me fall in love with the concept of Sunday Dinner at an early age: that main meal at midday, enjoyed after church, with the whole family gathered together. A spread.

Around Almonzo’s table there was Mother’s glazed ham, mounds of mashed potatoes and a sideboard displaying crimped dried apple and raisin pies, but what stuck with me the most was how they honored this leisurely family time every week.

Now, in our home we eat dinner together almost every night of the week, but admittedly it is rushed – hurriedly prepared and eaten in haste, as there is homework to do, stories to read, and boys that must be tucked into bed early or else we risk a follow-up day of The Cranks. Saturdays are often a blur of activities and errands in the morning, followed by a social-something in the afternoon and evening. Not, as this stage of life would have it, the day for a slow dinner where gravy is poured, wine swirled, and custard spooned over preserved fruit.

We need to bring back Sunday dinner.

For a while now I’ve wanted to begin a tradition of Sunday dinner, something slightly more special than our usual weeknight meals, enjoyed slowly, and prepared together. It’s about so much more than an opportunity to prepare a roast, whisk gravy and frost a cake (although…FUN!) I feel like this is an important step in developing our healthy family food culture, even though my children are young.

It’s also an opportunity to entertain. Sundays have a the slowest pace of the week and this meal makes for the perfect opportunity for catching up with family and friends in our home.

And so, I’m beginning a new monthly series here on Simple Bites called ‘Bringing back Sunday dinners’ – although, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what it will look like yet. I’ll chronicle some of our meals, that is a given, provide menu suggestions and entertaining tips, but mostly I want to inspire you to plan a slow feast of your own on the weekend – just for your own family or for additional guests.

Sunday dinner must be enjoyed at midday, mainly, I think, because we have small children and they droop as the day wears on. At lunchtime there is laughter and discourse around the table; in the evening, when they are tired, it’s mostly just refereeing (us) and monkey business (them). There’s also something elegant about a multi-course, well-rounded meal in the middle of the day. And do you know what? It’s healthier, too. On Sunday nights we’ll fix a small snack for supper (or make pancakes) and go to bed feeling lighter.

Also, there must be dessert, and a delicious, but not overly fussy main dish. I’ll consider it my personal challenge to put a beautiful meal on the table without spending hours in the kitchen. I’ll also work on do-ahead suggestions, cooking for leftovers, and honoring traditions. Can you tell I’m excited?

Here’s the first menu (pictured above) with links to the side dishes.

Sunday Dinner Menu #1

Herb-Roasted Striped Bass with Lemon, Capers and Shallots (recipe below)

Honey Pomegranate Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

Baked Brown Rice Pilaf with Thyme

Double Chocolate Coconut Cookies

The meal came together in an hour (minus the dessert). I prepped the pilaf, set the timer for 40 minutes, and went to work on the fish. It’s not a fussy preparation, and soon the fish was roasting in the oven alongside the pilaf. While they cooked, I set the table and cooked off the brussels sprouts. The pilaf rested for 10 minutes, while I snapped the photos, and then we sat down to eat together.

Tips on roasting fish

Roasting a whole fish is easier than you probably think. If you’ve yet to pop a dish like the one above into your oven, head and all, let 2013 be the year you branch out! Fish is so good for you, and this beautiful striped bass cost me less than an organic chicken or roast beef. You can get the recipe below, but first, here are a few tips:

Start with a fresh fish. Ask your fishmonger to clean the fish for you (it should be included in the price). I like to leave the head and tail on for presentation (and great conversation starters with the kids) but you can ask to have them chopped off. You can proceed with the recipe all the same.

I picked up a Striped Bass, which I know nicely serves four (my boys consume a man’s portion of fish, and Clara does her fair share), but you can prepare this recipe with most any variety of round fish such as trout, Arctic char, small salmon, grouper, tilapia or snapper.

To determine if a whole fish is properly cooked you can look for the following signs:

  • The flesh becomes firm (but will still spring back when touched lightly)
  • Flesh separates from the skin and bone easily.
  • Translucent flesh becomes opaque.
  • The meat begins to flake (just test it with a fork)

Happy Cooking!

Herb-Roasted Striped Bass with Lemon, Capers & Shallots
5.0 from 5 reviews
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Recipe type: Dinner
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 4
Simple to dress and quick to roast, this tender fish dish will win your family and guests over with its pairing of caramelized shallots and pungent capers.
Ingredients
  • 1 Striped Bass, dressed (meaning viscera, gills, fins & scales are removed)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 6 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 3 Tablespoons capers
  • 8 inches kitchen twine
  • (optional) 1 branch cherry tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Pat bass dry with paper towels and rub inside and out with 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt inside and out and tuck into the body cavity 2 sprigs of thyme and 2 lemon slices.
  3. Place bass in an oiled oven-to-table dish and top with a few more slices of lemon and 2 sprigs of thyme. Wrap kitchen twine around the belly of the fish and tie loosely, securing the lemon and herbs.
  4. Sprinkle the shallots around the fish and place in the preheated oven. Roast for 15 minutes.
  5. Add cherry tomatoes to the baking pan, and sprinkle capers all over and around the roasting bass. Drizzle with a little more olive oil. Bake for another 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, drizzled with a little more olive oil and a serve with a few wedges of lemon.
  7. To serve: remove twine and peel back top layer of skin. With a fork or flexible spatula, lift of the flesh from the bones along the entire length of the fish. Then, lift the tail and the backbone will come right out of the pan. Set it aside and serve the second side of flesh below it. Always check children’s food carefully for bones.

 

Does the idea of a Sunday dinner sound good to you? What sort of information would be helpful for you to get started?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. I love this idea, but my husband is a pastor so Sundays are our craziest day of the week!

  2. Such a great tradition to begin, Aimee!
    Kristen’s last post: Wrapping up Project 365 2012 – I Did It!

  3. I have to say, this recipe, surprisingly, appealed to me. Surprising because a fish dish, is not my usual taste. But I think I’ll have to bring this to the table for a try.
    Sunday dinner is a great tradition upheld with pride here in the UK, but it’s about time something more was done than the boring, overdone gravy meals. I look forward to the rest of the series. ^_^

  4. What a fun idea! I’m looking forward to this….

  5. LOVE this idea. Our Sundays can be either really crazy (filled with church and family activities) or so. incredibly. slow. On the Sundays where we’re able, I love having the big dinner together, but this is rededicating me all the more. Thanks!
    Felicia’s last post: Spaghetti with Sauteed Chickpeas and Spinach

  6. Love this idea, Aimee! I must try your bass recipe. I’ll have to serve it differently though. I’m not sure the kids will be able to look it in the eye on our table. Your family does well with the head on? :)
    Robin from Frugal Family Times’s last post: 10 Tips to Save Money at the Great Wolf Lodge

    • Head on was a first for us. But it sparked a lively discussion about head-to-tail eating and how ethnic cuisines vary around the world. For example, the eyes are considered a delicacy in some countries. I guess ask your kids how they feel about it!

  7. I grew up with a nice Sunday Supper every week. I try to continue that with my own family. We always eat together but like you said during the week it’s in a hurry. I know I’m going to love this series and the fish looks wonderful.
    Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen’s last post: Fried Egg & Cheeseburger Salad

  8. We almost always have Sunday dinner. We go to church, though, and don’t get home until 1 or so (sometimes later), so we are all starving. My challenge is coming up with things I can cook in the crockpot. I’m not a cream-of-soup cook, so it can be challenging sometimes to come up with something other than soup or pot roast.

  9. I just recently re-read Farmer Boy and was slightly shocked at the amount of food Almanzo always ate – but then again, they worked much harder than we do.
    I want to try doing this but I think it will take us a few weeks to ramp up to a full dinner. I know that by the end of Sunday I am not at all looking forward to cooking a big meal, so midday sounds like a perfect solution.
    Megan’s last post: A Simple Pantry Remodel

  10. Julie in TX says:

    I love this idea and can’t wait to read what you come up with!

  11. I love this! Sunday dinner is a tradition I have grown up with and still continue to this day. My favorite meal of the week is always Sunday dinner. I am so looking forward to this series and more menu suggestions/ideas for keeping Sunday dinner special. Great idea Aimee!!
    Allison’s last post: Last Minute DIY Gifts

  12. Think this is a lovely idea, and one that we already practice most Sundays. Our goal with this for 2013 is to share that table with someone most weeks. Hospitality is so 2013! :-)
    Christi {Jealous Hands}’s last post: our life this week :: 12/31 – 1/4

  13. What a wonderful feature for your blog, Aimee! I grew up eating Sunday dinners like this in my family and have many fond memories of such good food and good times around the table. You have inspired me with your first post about this topic to start incorporating this tradition into my Sunday routine. I am looking forward to all the future posts about your Sunday dinners. Happy New Year!
    Flavia’s last post: Buon Natale!

  14. We try to make Sunday dinner/midday meal the main one of the day, but we definitely do not always make it a big cooked dinner. Often a fast, smaller meal is what it takes to get us all out the door to go hiking or something else. I save major cooked dinners for rainy days and winter days. Our go-to is Italian, as I grew up eating big spaghetti dinners after church, the steam from the pasta pot fogging my mom’s kitchen windows. Anyway even all we have is BLTs, we try to use the good china. That makes Sunday dinner more of a celebration for us. The wedding china, and candles and music.

  15. I love this idea! Both the practice of it, and as a series on your blog. I loved the food described in Farmer Boy! When I was young, I found a Laura Ingalls Wilder cookbook, and made several of the recipes from it. Lots of them were based on the food in Farmer Boy. I need to see if I can find that one again–I remember being so excited about it at the time.

  16. Crazy timely for me.

    I’ve been going through Carol Brazo’s ‘No Ordinary Home: The Uncommon Art of Christ Centered Homemaking’ – and it is totally changing the way I do all this, really. She write about the Sabbath in one of the chapters – and seriously it’s undoing things around here. I’ve so overlooked rest – and food. And both are woven through scripture….all through it. This is my year of learning about how to function in my home…with my kids and husband…serving, etc. Great series for me. Bring it on.

    Blessings,
    Kate :)

  17. I need this series! But, I need it to work for me as a pastor and a mom (I’m both). I am committed to celebrating the Sabbath this year… and like earlier commenters, I need a Sunday dinner that I can make ahead, probably in the slow cooker, or cooked at a very low heat in the oven for a LONG time (like, 4 hours, if I can convince my husband it’s safe to leave on). Something has to go on the table or get eaten almost as soon as we get in the house, because I am so hungry on Sundays after church, and my kids are also. Maybe appetizers + slow cooker main dish + salad + make-ahead (Saturday) dessert?
    Really looking forward to this; I just found you via Sarah Bessey on Twitter. Thanks!
    Nurya Love Parish’s last post: You Choose Your Child’s Religion

  18. I adore this post!! Am such a huge huge little house on the prairie fan and I know exactly which parts in farmer boy you are referring too. Love that you are making that charming family moment come to life for your own family.
    Stephanie’s last post: Happy New Year! {2013}

  19. I love Sunday dinner, and I loved Farmer Boy. It used to make me so hungry to read that book, and I had the pleasure recently of reading it to my four year old. The fish above looks beautiful, although just yesterday my toddler broke down into tears as we watched Martha Stewart poach a whole fish — he was very concerned for the fish’s well-being. Maybe we’ll start with filets, but I think a leisurely Sunday dinner should start happening more regularly around here too.

  20. Heather Moll says:

    It’s so awesome that you are doing this feature! My husband and I were just talking with friends (who had us over for a noon dinner today) about how we need to do this more. Talk about timely!

  21. Reading Farmer Boy always made me so hungry – the amount of food they consumed! Love your idea Aimee. With an English mother, we often had “Sunday dinner”, although as our evening meal. But when I lived in England in the 90′s my relatives very often did a bigger mid-afternoon “tea” for the main meal (usually involving a roast of some kind) and a snack for late supper. Look forward to seeing your monthly dinner posts!
    Melissa@EyesBigger’s last post: Old Out, New In

  22. Sit down family dinners, and meals in general, were the norm growing up in my household but the time I really remember sunday dinner was when I first went away to college. I was only home maybe one weekend a month and my brother was now old enough to have a part time job and worked many weekends. My dad worked so hard to time a family meal timed early enough to get me back to the dorms at a reasonable hour sunday evening and to match up with my brother’s work shifts (before, after, or in the middle of a split shift) and to really make it an extra special meal. It really brought some connected time together in a weekend that could easily end up being full of people simply crossing baths between various things on their weekend ‘to do’ lists.

  23. Love this new series. I thought of you as we sat around the table with our pot roast. I remember when number 1 was a baby and I dreamed of sitting around a table with my family. It’s here and I don’t want to miss a moment. Look forward to seeing your menus!
    Ashley’s last post: Thoughts for a new year and salad

  24. Bissmamaof3 says:

    Going to dig out Farmer Boy right now and start reading. Really want to get back to Sunday dinners, sounds wonderful!

  25. My mom used to put a pot roast in the oven before church every Sunday. We would come home to the rich savory aroma of beefy goodness. Mmmmm.
    Sommer@ASpicyPerspective’s last post: Vietnamese Banh Mi Salad

  26. We started doing Sunday dinner a few months back and LOVE it – I’m really looking forward to your inspiration!

  27. Whole roasted fish is one of my favorite things to make! It’s so rustic and gorgeous and people just go nuts for it!!
    Gaby’s last post: Omi’s Sautéed Potatoes + $1000 Visa giveaway

  28. Love this Aimee! Sunday dinner is so important as is family dinner in general! Your dish looks amazing :) xoxo
    Jenny Flake’s last post: Chicken and Black Bean Smoky Rice Skillet

  29. Aimee, we are huge supporters of Sunday Dinner in our family. It is the best time to connect and we actually have plenty of time to cook and relax. It’s my favorite time of the week. This striped Bass looks wonderful.

  30. Thanks for inspiring us to bring back the homemade Sunday Dinner ~ this fish is gorgeous!

  31. I love this idea of Sunday dinner. Life is always so rushed these days and you don’t always get to spend time with your loved ones as much as you want to. Time gets away from you and then you realize it’s too late when it IS too late. As soon as my brother and I moved out, my parents made it mandatory that we came home every Sunday for dinner. To catch up and revel in family life. It’s seriously one of the best things family can do. So glad you’re starting up this series :) xo
    Julie @ Table for Two’s last post: Take-Out, Fake-Out: Mongolian Beef

  32. I LOVE this idea! So inspired by that beautiful whole fish! :)

  33. “There must be dessert.” That made me smile. :) That’s the most important part to me. I’m happy you think it’s needed, too! What a great post this is. Dinners are here are always rushed although we really have no reason to rush. What we’re rushing to do is get back to our computers. Pathetic! Thanks for the inspiration. :)
    Erin @ Texanerin Baking’s last post: Banana Orange Avocado Smoothie

  34. What a lovely meal and I am a fish lover so you can imagine how much this is making me crave for fish right now :)
    Kankana’s last post: Asian Chicken Fried Rice with Brown Rice

  35. I followed your dinner on Instagram! How fun!
    Maria’s last post: Brussels Sprout Pomegranate Citrus Salad {Giveaway}

  36. You know, I have recently been thinking how much I’d like to start fixing Sunday dinners for my husb and me. I tried a few times after we got married, but he is the pickiest eater known to man and blew me out of the water. Maybe I’ll try again now that I have a better idea of how to handle him. :) This simple roasted fish actually looks like a good starting point.

    Also, I LOVED Farmer Boy. It was one of my favorites in the series. I especially liked the candy making episode and the after dinner popcorn. The food was the best part of that book.

  37. I love the idea of Sunday dinner, and I remember sitting down to them every week as a kid…..which surprises me now since my dad was a full-time minister. I’m not sure how my mom did it because I don’t remember it always (or really ever) being from the crock pot. We don’t get home from church until 12:30 or 1 most days and naptime is at 2 (plus Sundays are particularly tiring days for the kids, so often they don’t make it until 2). I’m doing well if we get sandwiches eaten before they’re asleep. Maybe someday I’ll get it all figured out!
    Melissa Jones’s last post: MommyBee Designs

  38. What a great post. I make Sunday dinners for my (very recently new!) husband and our friends. We’ve been together since college and just got married, but we’ve always hosted Sunday dinners at our house. Since we don’t have kids and aren’t close to that stage of life yet, our Sunday dinners are late affairs that start and end with lots of wine. Your tradition sounds beautiful and I can’t wait to share something similar with our family one day. Not to mention, your recipes and photographs are fantastic!
    Jessica’s last post: Feast of the Seven Fishes #7: Linguine Vongole

  39. That is one really nice looking Sunday dinner! I really need to get around to cooking a whole fish!
    Kevin @ Closet Cooking’s last post: Spicy Peanut Chicken Rice Bowl

  40. I so love that you’re bringing Sunday dinner back! I’m looking forward to this new series and can’t wait to see what you cook up! :-)
    Tracy’s last post: Cardamom Snickerdoodles and Food-Related Goals for 2013

  41. I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and I am so glad to have come across it. I have bookmarked tons of your amazing recipes, but the main reason I keep coming back is because of your storytelling. You’ve got such a beautifully written blog. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Christine’s last post: WIN Diapers for a Year! #PGmom ( CAN 01/31) @Pampers @PGInsider

  42. This is one great recipe for family dinner on weekend. Thanks for sharing! Looks like it will take effort to prepare but that what makes it special. How long is the preparation and cooking time for this dish?
    Chico Food Lover’s last post: Happy days! Chico Crush Extends Happy Hours

  43. This is truly a lovely idea! The memory from reading Farmers Boy resonates strongly with me as that was one of my favorite childhood books as well (top 5 for sure). My husband and I don’t have kids, but have been talking recently about how implementing sit down dinners when we have kids will be so important to both of us. You’ve inspired me, why not start now?!
    Kaitlin Jenkins’s last post: Cutie Patootie

  44. Sunday is the best bonding day for the whole family. Thanks for sharing such delicious recipe :)

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