Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pistachio and Pine Nut Crusted Halibut with Parsley and Arugula Vichyssoise

Over the last week, I've thrown four dinner parties in four different kitchens. (Pith has nothing on me). Before you ask me how I've had time to cook and entertain so much with a busy work schedule, I've been on vacation in NYC this week. No, I'm not omnipresent. (And yes, I'm still employed)!

On Wednesday, I made dinner for my Hopkins besties (plus one spouse) instead of our usual "sushi with my girls" night. I wanted to really impress them, but had a few dietary restrictions to work with, including pescatarian, kosher, and gluten free.  Fish seemed to be a wise choice. Not only is fish delicious, it's also heart healthy. The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of fish at least twice per week, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fortunately, there are endless ways to cook fish, so plenty of awesome posts to come! I had been meaning to try this recipe from Ottolenghi's Nopi, so I got really excited when I found this beautiful (sustainably sourced) halibut.

The recipe is a pistachio and pine nut crusted halibut with parsley and arugula vichyssoise. My friends and I could hardly pronounce it (we just called it the "vichy-what-what" or "vichy-vichy"), but a vichyssoise (vih-she-swah) is classically a puree of leeks, onions, and potatoes. This recipe also adds spinach, parsley, and wild arugula. I unfortunately could not find wild arugula, which has a stronger flavor, so I used baby arugula with great results. It's always okay to improvise.

The vichyssoise can be made ahead of time and also makes a ridiculously tasty soup. I brought my sister home some leftovers and she needed the recipe. She couldn't believe that it was so creamy with no added dairy. It's simple to make and is basically just sautéed veggies simmered in chicken broth (or vegetable broth if making vegetarian) and then pureed. The recipe calls for butter to sauté the vegetables, but I swapped it out for olive oil at the last minute with great results. The only place butter cannot be substituted is for the nut crust (details below).

I was pressed for time, so I grabbed a block of parmesan, some garlicky olives, and plenty of wine to serve as an appetizer. It was simple, tasty, and most importantly, kept the hangry guests at bay while I plated the fish. I also made a charred corn salad with jalapeño, red onion, lime juice, cilantro and parsley which was fresh, light and perfect with this dish. 

Thank you Nikki and Geoff for volunteering your beautiful home and Danielle for being a great sous chef (I know I'm bossy in the kitchen). And Jamie... 

Tips/Tricks to Make the Perfect Pistachio and Pine Nut Crusted Halibut:
  • Save this recipe for when you find fresh looking halibut. I have several meals planned before I go to to the market, and choose one based on which ingredients look best that day. 
  • Become friendly with your fishmonger and don't be shy.
    • "What's fresh today?" is a totally acceptable question.
    • Request a center cut of fish (aka not the tail/end which is thinner and narrower). They often have more fish in the back if what you want is not displayed.
    • Specify what you need. They have a lot more practice skinning and portioning fish.
    • Ask them to put the fish over ice so it stays happy on the drive home.
  • Leave yourself enough time. 
    • This recipe is simple, but is somewhat time consuming (took me about 3 hours).
    • Consider making the vichyssoise and butter a day ahead. Then you'll only have to cook the fish (takes less than 10 minutes) the day of your dinner.
  • If you want a completely smooth sauce, pass the vichyssoise threw a sieve. I blended mine with a Vitamix and thought it tasted perfect without the added step.
  • You will definitely be teased for using radishes just as garnish. They're beautiful and worth it. 
  • Do not cook with wax paper instead of parchment paper...Oh lawd jesus there's a fire.
    (Thank you Geoff for keeping the girls calm)

Tools You'll Need:
  • Blender or food processor
  • Sieve
  • Parchment paper
  • Medium saucepan
  • Small baking sheet (about 6 x 8 inches) or make one out of tin foil
  • Half sheet pan
Parsley and Arugula Vichyssoise Ingredients:
  • 3 1/2 ounces parsley stems and leaves, blanched and chopped (instructions below) 
  • 5 1/4 ounces wild arugula, blanched and chopped (instructions below) 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or 1 Tbsp olive oil and 3 Tbsp unsalted butter per original recipe)
  • 2 medium shallots, coarsely chopped (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 medium leek, green and white parts, thinly sliced (7 ounces)
  • 2 large potatoes (russet or an all-purpose), peeled and roughly diced (13 ounces)
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (preferably homemade, but store bought is fine)
  • 1 ounce spinach leaves

Pistachio and Pine Nut Crust Ingredients:
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, roughly diced
  • 2 ounces shelled pistachios, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces pine nuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Halibut Recipe Ingredients:
  • 6 halibut fillets, skinless and boneless (6 ounces each, 2 pounds 1/4 ounces total)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 radishes, halved, leaves and tips left on
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Serves 6 as a main course

Pistachio and Pine Nut Crusted Halibut with Vichyssoise Recipe:

To Make the Nut Butter:
Place the butter for the nut crust in a medium saucepan and cook for 4 minutes over medium-high heat, until golden brown. Remove from the heat and pass through a sieve to remove any brown bits. In a bowl, add the butter, pistachios, pine nuts, sugar, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. Spread the mixture evenly on a small baking sheet (about 6 x 8 inches) lined with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours (or overnight). Once firm, cut the butter into 6 equal (halibut shaped) rectangles and return to the fridge until ready to use. 

To Make the Vichyssoise:
Bring a medium saucepan with salted water to a boil. Blanch the parsley and arugula for 30 seconds and then immediately transfer to an ice water bath. Once cool, strain and squeeze with a kitchen towel to dry. Coarsely chop.

Place olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté shallots for 4-5 minutes until soft, but not browned. Add the garlic and leek and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently, until shiny. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower temperature and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until cooked but retaining a bite. Add the blanched parsley and arugula and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add the spinach, 1.5 teaspoons of kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Let cool slightly. In batches, transfer to blender or food processor and blitz until completely smooth. Season to taste and set aside until ready to use.

To Make the Halibut:
Gently warm the vichyssoise sauce on the stovetop. Preheat the broiler to 400 degrees or to its highest setting. Spread the halibut on a parchment-lined baking sheet and coat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1.5 teaspoons of kosher salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Roast in the oven for 6 minutes, until almost cooked. Remove fish and immediately lay a rectangle of nut butter on top of each fillet, then return to the oven and cook for a final 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and squeeze the lemon juice evenly over the fillets.  

While the fish is cooking, spoon warmed vichyssoise into 6 shallow wide bowls. Once ready, lay a halibut fillet on top of each bowl, place a radish for garnish, and serve immediately.

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