Chocolate bunnies notwithstanding, you can have your Easter ham, your lamb, your Easter eggs, or your Easter halibut. Fresh Alaskan halibut is available and it’s the main ingredient in my favorite fancy fish recipe. Though it’s often company fare, I made it the other night, an ordinary Tuesday. Just for the halibut.
Thank you Tom Douglas. Who knew – he did – that halibut nestled between a bed of savory lentils and a blanket of crunchy lemon-vinaigrette-dressed breadcrumbs would be so good? I got lucky at the local grocery store a few years ago where Douglas was book selling and signing his Seattle Kitchen cookbook. A few days later my husband discovered this halibut recipe in our autographed copy and made it while I assisted, skeptically. I thought it sounded iffy. Lentils and breadcrumbs with halibut? I admit, my culinary sixth sense was a little off on this one.
There are four components to preparing this recipe so it’s not a fast meal, unless . . . you make the lentils ahead of time and then it’s a snap. Breadcrumbs and vinaigrette could also be made in advance. Halibut is definitely the star, moist, flaky and tender when cooked, but not overcooked, and the lentils and breadcrumbs complement it perfectly.
Recipe for Pan-Roasted Halibut with Toasted Bread-Crumb Salad & Green Lentils
Lentils, lemon vinaigrette, toasted breadcrumbs, and halibut. Make lentils and vinaigrette a day or two ahead and dinner will come together in half an hour or so.
Ingredients: 1 C dried French green lentils, picked over and rinsed/ 2 T olive oil/ 1 1/2 t minced garlic/ 1/4 C finely diced carrots/ 1/4 C finely diced celery/ 1/4 C finely diced onions/ 1 1/2 C chicken broth/ 2 t chopped flat-leaf parsley/ 1 t chopped fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano/ 3 T cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks/ Kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
Directions: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the lentils, reduce heat and cook until tender, 15 – 30 minutes – check lentils periodically/ When done, drain and set aside/ Sauté garlic, celery, carrots and onion in olive oil for several minutes, until translucent/ Stir in lentils, chicken broth and chopped herbs/ Bring to a boil, add butter, stir, adjust seasoning/ Set aside and keep warm if serving immediately/ If lentils are to be refrigerated for a day or two, hold the herbs and butter, and stir them in when ready to reheat and serve.
Make a double batch and freeze half of them for the next halibut dinner.
Ingredients: 1 T fresh lemon juice/ 2 t minced shallots/2 T olive oil/ Salt & pepper
Directions: Combine lemon juice and shallots, slowly whisk in oil/ Season with salt & pepper/ Set aside until time to serve.
Toasted Bread Crumb Salad
Ingredients: 3 T olive oil/ 1 C coarse bread crumbs/ Salt & pepper to taste/ 1/3 C chopped parsley, 1/4 C unchopped flat-leaf parsley/ 1 T chopped lemon zest/ Lemon vinaigrette (recipe above).
Directions: Heat olive oil, add bread crumbs and sauté until golden and crispy, 3 – 5 minutes/ Cool/ When ready to serve, toss with parsley, lemon zest and all but 1 T vinaigrette/ Reserve 1 T vinaigrette for drizzling over fish when serving.
Pan Roasting the Halibut
Directions: 1 1/2 # halibut fillets, cut into four pieces/ Heat olive oil to almost smoking in a large sauté pan/ Place seasoned halibut in pan and sear on one side 4- 5 minutes/ Turn and cook for another 2 – 4 minutes, perhaps longer depending on thickness of pieces/ When the fish is flaky and has lost its translucence it’s done. Peak into the middle of one fillet to be sure.
Whenever I cook fish these days I pan roast halves of lemon on the side, resulting in prolific and delicious roasted juice.
While halibut cooks, reheat lentils, add herbs and butter if you haven’t already. To serve, place lentils on the plate, then the halibut topped with toasted breadcrumb salad. Drizzle reserved lemon vinaigrette over each serving. The combination of creamy lentils, crunchy breadcrumbs with the succulent halibut is delicious. Hats off to Douglas for a killer meal that’s mostly local.