Thursday, August 23, 2007

Seared Halibut with Potatoes and Tomatoes

"Hey Jason, look! There is an article about an Oklahoma fish restaurant in Gourmet," I said to my husband, the Tulsa boy. "A fish restaurant?" there was a note of skepticism in Jason's voice. It turned out to be well deserved as we found out after reading the article. Gourmet* must have really been scraping the bottom of the barrel with a story about a fish restaurant in Tulsa whose chef/owner doesn't eat fish and where most dishes are deep-fried. Jason didn't sound surprised. "What? Did you expect to find something like New Deal in Oklahoma?" Not really, but I at least expected them to eat the stuff they are selling to their customers. A fishmonger or a fish restaurateur who doesn't eat fish is as ridiculous as a vegetarian butcher.

Luckily, I don't have to buy fish from someone who refuses to eat it. Carl from New Deal is always ready with a recipe he concocted a few days ago or just general advice on what to do with each fish. Sammy and I stopped by his store last week. I don't get to go as often as I used to these days since my schedule is a bit unpredictable, so each trip is a special treat. So many things looked tempting, I was at a loss. The striper was gorgeous, and there was a whole monk tail, and fatty tuna, and whole branzino... The sparkling whole fish and fillets went on and on. But when Carl told me about what he made for dinner the other night, the deal was sealed. He seared halibut in olive oil, then sautéed sliced onions in the same pan, deglazed the pan with white wine, added the ripest local tomatoes he could find and some garlic, and finished the fish by returning it to the pan, covering, and steaming for a few minutes. I was salivating before he even finished with a sprinkle of basil. I got a gorgeous, thick halibut fillet and using his recipe for inspiration, concocted my own "best of New England summer" dish.

I kept the seared halibut, onions, tomatoes, garlic and basil, but substituted the wine and last minute steaming with thinly sliced and crisped potatoes.

Seared Halibut with Potatoes and Tomatoes

Fish substitutions: striped bass, swordfish, mahi-mahi, cod, haddock, sable, and any thick white or cream colored fillets

Serves 2

2 halibut fillets without skin (6 oz each)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large red skinned potatoes, peeled, and sliced thinly with a mandoline
1/2 cup red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 large ripe tomato, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
Chopped basil for garnish

Special equipment: cast iron skillet or oven proof non-stick skillet
  1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Dry halibut fillet really well on paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Set a cast iron or oven proof non-stick skillet over high heat. When hot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and wait for it to shimmer. Add the halibut and cook until browned on the first side, 2 minutes. Flip and cook another minute. Take the halibut out of the pan and reserve. Take the pan off heat.
  3. Add onions, potatoes, garlic, and remaining tablespoon olive oil to the skillet. Season generously with salt and pepper, mix with tongs and arrange into an even layer. Arrange tomato slices over potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and dot with butter. Roast in the middle of the oven for 18-25 minutes or until potatoes are tender and browned on the bottom. Don't be afraid to burn them. The crispy edges are the best part.
  4. Add the halibut on top of tomatoes and return to the oven for 4 minutes per inch of thickness. To test for doneness, separate the flakes with a fork and look inside. Halibut is done when it is still a bit translucent inside. It will become opaque as it rests. Err on the side of under-cooking as halibut dries out easily.
  5. Sprinkle with basil and serve.
* Unfortunately, I can't find this magazine at the moment (no time to look), and I don't even remember if it was Gourmet or Saveur, so I apologize if I got my facts wrong. Hey, I am a sleep deprived new mom -- I am entitled to a few mistakes in a blog post ;)


Katerina said...

Ohh this sounds really good and easy. I knew there was a reason I needed a cast iron skillet! Plus all that halibut in the fridge... mmm. I miss when your pictures came through the rss feeds though :(

chefchipdes said...

Wow, the photo alone makes me want to prepare the dish!

For those of us on US' East Coast, could you explain what a "stripper" is? When I read, "...the stripper was gorgeous, and there was a whole monk tail, and fatty tuna..." out of context I wasn't sure if this was a fish market or a visit to the wrong end of Bourbon St!

Thanks for the post.

Chef Chip

Helen said...

Chefchipdes: oh my, that's what happens when you don't get enough sleep. I meant a striper, not stripper :) A striper is a short name for striped bass. Thanks for catching it. After all, I do want to keep the content of Beyond Salmon family friendly ;)

Katerina: thanks for letting me know about the pictures not coming through in RSS feeds. Did this start happening around the time when I changed the banner and look and feel of the blog? Other than that, I have no idea what I changed, but I'll try to look into it when I have time.

Unknown said...

what do u mean by the oil beginning to "shimmer"? thats a new one to me.


Helen said...

by "shimmer" I mean it gets hot, thin as water and you'll see little ripple on top of it. In other words, wait for the oil to heat up before putting the fish in.

Anonymous said...

Your story of an Oklahoma fish restaurant reminds me of a lovely family vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama. A beautiful, friendly town that welcomes visitors with open arms. We quickly learned, though, that unless we were cooking the seafood [we'd rented a beach house with a kitchen], the only way to order it was deep fried. Otherwise, it would be terrible.

Anonymous said...

I tried to slice the potatoes with a mandolin, but I was unable to slice them thinly. Perhaps a mandoline would be more effective.