Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sauteed Halibut with Arugula, Roasted Beets, and Horseradish Creme Fraiche


I can't wait till these little guys are strikingly tall zinnias burgeoning with big fluffy, bright flowers.

Like this:

These guys will be tasty and convenient herbs.

A lot of the 10X10 recipes call for small amounts of herbs that I don't use in great quantities. I therefore figured that it would be nice to grow herbs like sorrel, marjoram, and epazote, especially because these herbs often can't be found in the store. It's just not so fun to pick a recipe that depends on sorrel, finding that the store doesn't have it, and having to pick something else. Or, finding that they do have it, using a tiny bit, and letting the rest go to waste. I figure that purchases like that add up to the massive percentage of my paycheck that goes to food, so I'd rather spend $1.50 on the seeds one time, and never have to worry about buying the herb.

If you know me well, you know that I have had an on-going battle with squirrels for the past 15 years. It would take about 2,000 words to adequately describe the scope of these issues, but I will tell you that one year, a squirrel decided to bite all the heads off my little baby basil sprouts. It didn't eat the whole plant, just the heads, so I was left with all the sad little stalks valiantly but vainly poking their bodies out of the soil. When the squirrel dug up the lily bulbs and ate the tender tasty centers I found it annoying but somewhat understandable. But only the heads? Really? That's just perverse.

Or how about the time I tried those little mesh seed-thingies that you start inside and plant outside? That year, the squirrels dug them up, shredded them, and threw them all over the porch. They didn't eat those, either. That was just to mess with me. I could go on and on here, but I'll spare you. I won't mention the time they ate the Christmas lights, or the time I came home to find one in my bedroom...

Basically, that's why the sprouts have a squirrel guard. This squirrel is here to say that these sprouts are his, and the rest of you squirrels better back off.

The onion wanted to get in on the sprouting action, too.

All this springtime feeling got me wanting something light for dinner, and I'm a little obsessed with Sunday Suppers at Lucques right now, so I picked Suzanne Goin's recipe for sauteed halibut with arugula, roasted beets, and horseradish creme fraiche.

It started with coating a piece of halibut with lemon zest, thyme, and parsley.

That is one pretty fish fillet.
How did I zest a lemon when Thomas Keller stole my zester, you ask?

I used my spiffy new microplane zester! It has a handle. Oooohh.

So beets were roasted and sliced into wedges. They were then tossed with a dressing made from diced shallots, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

The beets were plated on a bed of arugula and spring green mix. It was supposed to be straight baby arugula, but Whole Foods didn't have it, so the mix just had to do.

The fish was then burned in a skillet. Suzanne Goin tells you to put the skillet on high heat for two minutes, swirl in olive oil, and let it sit for another minute. Why I followed this direction, or the one that instructed me to make mayonnaise by hand, I do not know. This resulted in a very very charred exterior that tasted of Teflon rather than crispy fishy deliciousness.

It also meant that while the exterior was charred, the interior was raw. Had this been tuna, that would have been just fine. It wasn't tuna, though, and I became rather flustered, which resulted in very overcooked fish. I've really never been able to pan-sear fish. I can bake it, grill it, and poach it, but pan searing? Not so much.

I'll just add it to the List of Things Leah Can't Cook. That illustrious list includes duck in any form, pate choux (if I hear one more person say it's soooo easy, my head is going to explode), and souffles.

The halibut was plated and the whole dish was drizzled with a sauce made from creme fraiche, horseradish, lemon, salt and pepper.

Try to pretend that the fish isn't blackened, and it doesn't look like some sort of humpbacked whale beached on sands of lettuce and beets. Also, pretend that the plating and lighting don't suck. Thank you.

It tasted delicious, though. I already knew that I liked cream and beets together, and it turns out that horseradish is also delicious with beets. The meal wasn't overly heavy, but it was satisfying because of the sugary, earthy, starchy beets, and it was just right for very early spring. The pepperiness of the horseradish and arugula was nicely paired with the mildness of the fish and creme fraiche. Next time, though, I'll probably cut the beets into smaller shapes, and I'll try my best not to demolish the halibut fillet.

Sautéed Halibut with Arugula, Roasted Beets, and Horseradish Creme Fraiche

  • 6 halibut fillets
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coarsley chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces arugula, cleaned
  • Roasted Beets with Horseradish Creme Fraiche (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly grouns black pepper

Season the fish with the lemon zest, thyme, and parsley. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the fish from the refrigerator 15 minutes before cooking, to bring it to room temperature.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 1 minute. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Swirl the olive oil into the pan, and when it's shimmering, carefully lay the fish in the pan and press on them a little bit. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the fillets are nicely browned. Turn the fish over, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook a few more minutes, until it's almost cooked through. 

Be careful not to overcook the fish. When it's done, the fish will begin to flake and separate a little, and the center will be slightly translucent. Scatter half of the arugula over a large platter. Arrange the beets on top, and drizzle with half the horseradish cream.

Tuck the rest of the arugula among the beets, so you can see the beets peeking through. Nestle the fish in the salad, and spoon a little horseradish cream over each piece. Drizzle the whole dish with olive oil and a big squeeze of lemon.

Roasted Beets with Horseradish Creme Fraiche

  • 4 smallish bunches different-colored beets
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon diced shallot, plus 1/4 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut off the beet greens, leaving 1/2 inch of the stems still attached. Clean the beets well, and peel with a vegetable peeler. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a teaspoon of salt.

Place the beets in a roasting pan with a splash of water in to bottom. Cover the pan tightly with foil, and roast for about 40 minutes, until they're tender when pierced. The roasting time will depend on the size and type of beet. When the beets are done, care fully remove the foil and allow them to cool. Cut the beets into 1/2-inch thick wedges.

While the beets are in the oven, combine the disced shallot, both vinegars, a teaspoon lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl, and let sit 5 minutes. Whisk in the 1/2 cup olive oil. Taste for balance and seasoning.

Whisk the creme fraiche and horseradish together in a small bowl. Stir in the heavy cream, remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Toss the beets and sliced shallots with the vinaigrette. (If you're using different-colored beets, dress them separately so that they don't discolor each other.) Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and toss well. Taste for balance and seasoning.

Here's a meal that I didn't mess up too badly (the rice was a tiny bit underdone, but it wasn't too noticeable):

This is one of Nick's favorite dishes, and it's in our regular rotation. It's relatively economical, and it's easy although it is a bit time-consuming. However, most of that time is not active time. It's spicy and satisfying, somewhat healthy, and the leftovers are delicious. We highly recommend that you try this meal.

Chicken and Brown Rice With Chorizo

  • 2 1⁄2 lbs. bone-in skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3⁄4 lb. smoked, dried chorizo, cut into 1"-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh oregano
  • 1⁄2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1⁄2 cups long-grain brown rice, rinsed
  • 1⁄2 cup white wine
  • 3 roasted red peppers, peeled, seeded, and cut into thick strips
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Heat oven to 400°. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a 4-quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken and cook, without turning, until it's a deep golden brown, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. (Pour off and discard any accumulated fat and juices.) Add the chorizo and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chorizo to a plate, leaving the fat behind in the dutch oven. Set chorizo aside.

Add oregano, red pepper, garlic, onion, and bay leaf to the dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is lightly browned and somewhat soft, about 8 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until surface is glossy, about 2 minutes.

Add wine, bring to a boil while stirring often, and reduce by half, about 1 minute. Nestle chicken, chorizo, and half of the peppers into rice mixture. Pour in broth and season liquid to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Transfer to the oven and bake until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Remove the dish from oven, uncover, and gently stir in the peas and the remainder of the peppers with a fork. Let sit for 10 minutes, covered, to allow the flavors to meld.

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