Despite its restaurant-quality presentation, Linton Hopkins' Sauteed Georgia Trout with Watercress Puree and Mandarin Salad featured in Adam Roberts' Secrets of the Best Chefs, is a relative breeze to prepare (for a cheffy dish) and worth any extra minute of effort.
The trout is simply salted and seared skin-side down for a crisp crust and barely-cooked flesh. A puree of watercress, leeks, and cream forms the base of the dish, and the whole kaboodle gets topped with a bright, bracing salad of mandarin oranges, fennel, dill, radish, and parsley. It's a beautiful plate of food, and tastes even better than it looks.
Why I picked this recipe: Mandarins are hitting their prime these days, and they anchor this sophisticated trout dish beautifully.
What worked: Everything on the plate screams balance; the sweet acidity of the mandarins and the bitter edge to the watercress lightens the creamy puree and rich trout flesh.
What didn't: Nothing. This dish was elegant Southern cooking at its finest.
Suggested tweaks: You could absolutely tweak the elements of the salad and puree to suit the season, but be sure to keep in mind the tenuous balance between acid and fat in the dish. The dish as written is easy to prepare in stages as well. Hold off on adding the mandarins and salt to the salad until serving and gently re-warm the puree before plating. Sear the fish at the last minute, of course.