These days we are all trying to eat a healthier diet and if we can do it while maintaining a high level of flavor, everyone will be happier! Fish has long been reputed to be one of the healthiest foods available. There are a lot of people I know who do not care for fish, including one of my nephews, because it is “fishy.” Really fresh fish smells and tastes like the sea. To help those reluctant few enjoy their meals, select a mild fish and serve it with a piquant sauce. Since citrus is at its peak right now, let’s use it to accent the beautiful halibut.
Halibut is one of my favorites. A mild, flaky white fish, it comes in thick steaks that are easy to handle. It has a firm texture and holds up well to all forms of cooking. Sear-roasting starts on the stovetop and gives the halibut a beautiful crust, and then finishing it in the oven keeps the center moist and flavorful. Many people overcook halibut which is a crime. The outside should be starting to flake and the center should still be translucent. The residual heat will finish cooking it off the heat. One way to tell if a thick fish is done in the center is to stick a sharp paring knife in the middle. When you pull it out feel the tip; if it is warm, the fish is done. If it is still cold, cook the fish a bit longer.
One of the highlights of produce at this time of the year is citrus. Lemons, limes, grapefruits, and of course oranges. While navel oranges are the big sellers around here, if you can find them, you definitely should try blood oranges. They look similar on the outside, just a little smaller. But when you cut them open, the centers are the most glorious red/pink color! And the flavor is amazing. While obviously similar to regular orange juice, it is just enough different to be a nice change. And the color is incredible! We had blood orange margaritas when we were watching the Academy Awards and they were wonderful!!
Today the blood oranges are combined with onions, olive oil, and cilantro to make a sassy salsa. It is the perfect accompaniment to the halibut, infusing it with bright flavor and making it a splashy dinner fancy enough to serve to guests. But it is so good you may want to keep it all for yourself, LOL. When you think of salsa the first thing that comes to mind is tomatoes. But when you want a change of pace, use fresh fruit. I like a bit of heat, so I add half of a jalapeno, but you certainly don’t have to. By the way, did you know that the closer to the stem you get, the hotter the pepper! I like the flavor without scorching my mouth, so I remove the seeds and ribs and use the lower half. But if you want it screaming hot, use the whole pepper.
The originator of today’s recipe is Joanne Weir. She is a James Beard award winning cookbook author, chef, cooking teacher, and television personality. She hosts “Joanne Weir’s Cooking Class” for PBS. She has a very casual, welcoming personality that shines in front of the camera. I learn something every time I watch her program. And as if she wasn’t busy enough already, she also leads culinary travel adventures! You can join her and explore Tuscany, Provence, Seville, the Italian Riviera, and Marrakech. How wonderful to be able to experience all these places with someone who is not only incredibly knowledgeable but also highly respected by the entire food industry. She can gain access to places other tour guides only dream about. Check out her website and maybe you will be sending me a postcard from Europe soon!
I hope you enjoy this way of preparing halibut. It is virtually foolproof and you will be the star of your family once again!
Kitchen Skill: How to Measure Reducing Liquids
Probably the hardest part of reducing liquids is when a recipe calls for you to reduce by half or to a specific amount. How in the heck am I supposed to know when that is? Another trick I learned over the years is to use the handle of a wooden spoon to measure depth in a pan.
For the following recipe, pour 1/4 cup water into the pan you will use to reduce the orange juice. Dip the handle of the wooden spoon into the water and use a piece of scotch tape to mark the line. Throw out the water and add the orange juice. Simmer until it gets close to the same depth as the water. Start measuring with the taped handle, being careful to dip it very quickly in and out of the hot liquid so the tape doesn’t dissolve!
- For the Salsa
- 3/4 cup fresh navel or Valencia orange juice (from 2 medium oranges)
- 3 small blood oranges, cut into segments, segments cut in half crosswise
- 2 tbsp minced red onion
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp finely grated navel or Valencia orange zest (from 2 medium oranges)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 small jalapeno, seeded and de-ribbed (use the end farthest from the stem), optional
- For the Halibut
- 1 tsp finely grated navel or Valencia orange zest (from 1 small orange)
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 4 (6 oz) skinless halibut fillets
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.
- Make the Salsa: In a small saucepan, boil the orange juice over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- In a medium bowl, combine the reduced orange juice, blood orange segments, onion, cilantro, olive oil, and orange zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the jalapeno if you want some heat in the salsa.
- Cook the Halibut: In a small bowl, mix the orange zest, thyme, salt, and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the halibut fillets.
- Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, arrange the fillets in the pan. Sear for about 2 minutes without moving; then use a thin slotted metal spatula to lift a piece of fish and check the color. When the fillets are nicely browned, flip them and put the pan in the oven.
- Roast until the halibut is just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the halibut to warmed serving plates. Spoon some of the salsa over each fillet and serve immediately.