Monahan's Halibut with Caper-Dill Sauce & Roasted Asparagus - recipe for this firm, meaty fish is dreamy
Peggy Lampman | Contributor
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Last night I dreamed of halibut. Before turning in for the evening, I‘d checked my screen scanning Monahan's Friday Fish Report, which described their just-received halibut as the “fattest, freshest” of the year. Palate pricked, I closed my eyes, sinking into dreamland...
I was wandering through Kerrytown, a Kerrytown circa 1981 that resembled more a film noir set than today's cheerful venue. Long shadows and dark halls led into an origami-papered room, followed by a tiny rectangular cafe, cases overflowing with croissants that were oozing with chocolate — any minute I would come across my quest, the seafood case: I was hungry for halibut.
Monahans was a Kerrytown fixture in those days, as it is today, and as this dream unfurled, I lost focus onmy destination, distracted by a friend I hadn’t seen since jungle-gym days, barking cats, leering clowns — the stuff of nocturnal badlands.
At last I found my way to the fish counter, which featured only one stupendous glistening fish, freshly caught in the frigid Pacific waters off the Alaskan coastline. Ah... come to me, my flat-fished, white-fleshed beast. Licking my chops, I ordered several pounds, then realized my purse was missing. Face red, promising to return quickly, I reversed my course searching through the nooks and crannies of this now-looming nightmare.
At last the obvious dawned: I checked my pockets and found my wallet. Eureka! (Note that my purse was still missing, but the desire and means to purchase halibut far outweighed my missing bag.) I rushed to the fish counter to find the lights dimmed, halibut vanished.
Perhaps your nightmares revolve around losing your passport prior to boarding a plane, or needing a solitary math credit to graduate, but you forgot where the final exam was being held. Doug Duwe, a friend, tells me his recurring nightmare involves trying to catch a fly ball, which keeps circling the edge of his mitt, refusing to land in the pocket.
A good shrink may shed light on the angst that causes such dreams. Or not. It doesn’t take an analyst to figure out the trigger that spawned my tempestuous journey: I’m craving halibut. Or perhaps I just needed a snack before retiring for the evening.
Bottom line: When halibut season has begun, it would be a nightmare if circumstances thwarted my enjoying one of my favorite fish. Rare is the fish eater who dislikes halibut, with its sweet, clean taste and firm, meaty texture. It embraces a variety of cooking techniques — braising, baking, frying, steaming — and the fish is also firm enough for the grill. When I awakened, I drove to Kerrytown, and as I selected my fillets, my hand clutched my wallet for fear some panting ghoul would snatch it from me unawares.
The following recipe was adapted from one of Monahan’s website recipes for halibut. Changes: I cut the recipe in half and reduced some of the ingredients; I used white flour instead of Drake's Seasoned Flour; I deglazed the pan with wine instead of stirring it in at the end; I pan-fried my fillets, instead of searing, then roasting the fish, therefore increasing the cooking time in the skillet.
Yield: 2 servings
Time: 35 minutes
2, 8 ounce halibut fillets
White flour as needed
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
16 thin asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped shallot
1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
1/2 lemon, pulpy fruit removed and chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Lightly season fleshy side of halibut with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Dust top and bottom of halibut fillets with flour, shaking off excess.
3. Heat heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, or enough to generously coat bottom of pan.
4. Pan fry halibut, flesh side down, until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary so fish sizzles but does not smoke and burn.
5. While fish is frying, place asparagus on an oiled baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and roast for 6-8 minutes, or until are golden brown in spots.
6. Meanwhile, with a spatula, flip fish when flesh is golden, and cook, skin side down, until halibut is just opaque in the center, an additional 4-6 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
7. While skillet is hot, deglaze with wine, whisking continuously 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and stir in butter, garlic and shallot. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until shallots are transparent, then stir in dill, capers and lemon and heat an additional minute.
8. Spoon sauce over halibut and serve with asparagus.
Peggy Lampman is a real-time food writer and photographer posting daily feeds on her website and in the Food & Grocery section of Annarbor.com. You may also e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.