Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sous-vide Halibut with Scallions, Coriander, and Lemon

Fish cooked sous-vide is moist and custardy.  Too bad it’s a bit... dare I say it… boring. Fancy vocabulary aside, it’s poached fish, and that’s one cooking technique I am ambivalent about. Not that I don’t love the creamy sauces it produces, but the fish itself seems nothing more than a vehicle for sauce.  But I don’t give up on an idea that fast. I’ve been experimenting with sous-vide fish on and off for a few years and finally have a dish that’s too good not to share. Here is what makes this work:

Fish type
Halibut is extremely easy to dry out with conventional methods, so if you got your hands on a thick snowy white sparkling piece of halibut, this method shows off its texture like no other. Of course, there are other fish good choices, like striped bass or red snapper

I’ve seen temperatures for sous-vide fish from 104F to 140F and have tried almost all of them. For halibut, the magic number (for my taste) is 128F. Of course, at this temperature you are not killing either bacteria or parasites, so your halibut needs to be fresh (to deal with bacteria risk) and you need to be willing to take a tiny risk that it might contain parasites. Of course, even if it does, the odds of them making you sick are tiny.

The timing is crucial. No, you can’t keep things indefinitely in the water bath without changing the texture, and it is particularly true of fish. 15 minutes per inch at 128F works well.

Cooking medium
I’ve tried cooking fish in zip lock bags with no additions, and with oil. Oil turned out to be very beneficial. It’s not just the temperature that counts, but heat capacity of the cooking medium. Oil transfers heat a lot slower than water and produces more supple results. Normally, you’d need a lot of oil to poach fish, but zip lock bags pack the oil very efficiently and let you get away with very little.

Since we’ll be cooking fish in oil, why not flavor it? I love a mixture of scallions, lemon zest and coriander seeds. Not only do I infuse the oil with them, but save them, crisp them up, and use as a topping. For the finishing touch, I broil halibut for just a minute with Dijon mustard butter. It was wasabi/sushi combination that inspired me to try it, and this topping was a definite keeper.

If you want to try this dish, here are the details.

2/3 cup (150g) grapeseed oil
2/3 cup (40g) scallions (green and pale green parts) cut into ½ inch lengths
1/2 tsp (1g) coriander seeds, crushed with a skillet
zest of 1 lemon removed with a coarse zester or peeled with a veg peeler and julienned.

Put oil, scallions, coriander seeds, and lemon zest into a small pan, bring to a gentle simmer, reduce heat to low and let cook for 5 minutes swirling the pan occasionally. No color should develop. Cool.

Strain and reserve both the oil and the solids. Don’t wash the pan yet.

Salt 4 halibut pieces (about 6 oz each) 1-24 hours before cooking and refrigerate.

Set up a waterbath to 128F.

Dry halibut, put into zip lock bags (1-2 pieces per bag), separating by thickness. Divide oil between bags. Submerge into a bowl of water to push out the air and seal. Cook at 128F for 15 min per inch.

Put the scallions and other reserved solids back into the skillet and cook over medium-high heat stirring occasionally until brown.

1 Tbsp (14g) melted butter
2 tsp (10g) dijon mustard

Mix melted butter and mustard together with a fork. It will want to separate at first, but will come together after about a minute of mixing.

Eventually, it should look completely smooth.

Turn on the gas broiler or use a plumber’s torch to finish the fish.

Remove halibut from bags and place on a paper towel to catch the drips (do NOT dry the fish all over). Place in a broiler safe dish, top with a thin layer of mustard butter and pop very close to the broiler (about 2 inches away) to make it golden as fast as possible, 1 min tops. Or torch the top if you don’t have a gas broiler.

Divide the scallions / zest / coriander topping equally between fish pieces and serve.


Anonymous said...

This is beautiful. Sous Vide in oil is a great idea!


Unknown said...

looks and sounds very tastly. definately trying it. last week came across lots of reviews and comparisons to help you choose the right sous vide for you on it.

Georgia said...

Are those morels around the fish? If so, how were they prepared?

Helen said...

yes. morels sauteed in butter.

Unknown said...

I did this a few weeks ago, serving 6. Everyone raved about it. It was so good, I'm making it again tonight. But will make more sauce this time. I can't wait for dinner tonight!

I have an inexpensive sous vide gadget that works perfectly. I didn't want another thing linked into my phone, so I got a manual set up. It works great for fish and steak.