Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Roasted Halibut in Almond-Tomato Sauce

If you haven't already figured out, I sometimes don't eat as healthy as I should ( blog). As a result, I'm always looking for new opportunities to incorporate fish into the weekly meal plan since 1) it's better for us than, say, fettuccine carbonara and 2) we actually enjoy a good piece of fish here at the Commissary (even the progeny on occasion). The problem is my somewhat limited repertoire of solid fish dishes, which numbers about 5-7. Luckily, the June 15th issue of Wine Spectator included a recipe for roasted halibut with an almond-tomato sauce at the back, provided courtesy of Chef Richard Vellante of Legal Sea Foods in Boston (i.e., people who should know a thing or two about cooking fish). The recipe is really simple and is as follows:

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 c. Spanish onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. thyme, chopped
1/2 c. basil, sliced
10-12 tomatoes, skinned and seeded (or 1 28.5 oz-can of peeled canned tomatoes)
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. capers, rinsed
1/2 c. almonds, slivered and toasted
salt and pepper, to taste
1.5 lb. (4 fillets) of halibut, skinned

1. Place olive oil and onions in a Dutch oven and soften for 10-12 minutes over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.

2. Add thyme, basil, tomatoes, sugar, capers, and almonds. Cook at a low simmer for about 10 minutes. Cool and reserve sauce.

3. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Place almond-tomato sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof casserole dish. Lightly brush fish with olive oil and season with salt/pepper.

4. Place fish atop sauce in casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes.

Now, there are a few items of note that are worth sharing. I looked for halibut fillets at the local Large Corporate Grocery and could only find some in the specialty fish freezer, priced at a paltry $17.49/0.75 lb. Rather than drop $36 on an ingredient in an unproven recipe, I decided to use a cheaper substitute: cod fillets, costing half as much and looking more or less like halibut. To save myself some headaches, I bought a package of slivered almonds and a can of peeled canned tomatoes to reduce prep work (I also wimped out and used dried thyme, 1/3 tsp. worth, which is about the same as 1 tsp. fresh). Once it was time to cook, I roasted the almonds on a cookie sheet in the oven at 400F for 5 minutes (almost too long as they got pretty browned). The recipe wasn't clear about draining the juice from canned tomatoes (if you're not using fresh), so I dumped about half the juice out and threw the other half in with the tomatoes. When the sauce was finished, rather than cool it down, I simply added the cod fillets to the Dutch oven and threw the whole shebang in the oven (one pot supper).

While the final result was a little runny (I put it in bowls instead of on plates to better capture the sauce, almost like a bouillabaisse), it tasted AMAZINGLY good, even to my critical palate (I think Mrs. Hackknife used the term "restaurant quality"). I couldn't believe the depth of flavor in the sauce, which was both salty and rich, almost TOO tasty if you know what I mean (Where's the butter? There must be cream in here somewhere!). Was it the capers? The toasted almonds? The oil and caramelized onions? All of the above? Regardless, this recipe is now in the regular rotation. Next time, rather than boiled potatoes, I'll make some of our house rustic bread to help sop up the good sauce....

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