Fishing for compliments
Since the pescalicious day I had planned on Thursday didn’t quite work out, we still had the fresh halibut I’d bought. That soup was so delicious, I just had to find a way to top it, even though we were having fishy meals two days in a row. I mentioned that we wanted to grill it on cedar planks in Jeremiah’s new BBQ (I think he loves it more than he loves me), but before checking out I noticed that the package of two planks was not only $7, but only good for one use! Uh, no thanks. Luckily, off to the side I noticed a little box of cedar PAPERS by Fire and Flavor. Same concept flavor-wise, but for wrapping around the fish instead of resting underneath. Even better, it had 8 papers for the same $7. SO much easier than getting yelled at for trying to shove pieces of wood under the grating of Jeremiah’s gas grill!
According to him, fish isn’t very filling. He’s the kind of man who will eat both his portions of fish and the side dishes, then start in on any leftovers in the fridge… and then very likely cut up some salami and cheese to snack on a little while later. I pondered over what it is in fish-based meals that makes it feel so complete without being heavy. The starch! I steamed a simple white rice because I knew that if he likes sushi, he’ll like it deconstructed (that’s my fancy way of saying not-touching on a plate). Ryley also loves white rice, so I can give her a plate of plain rice and plain fish, and she’s happy. Her “white meal” left a little something to be desired, but she likes it (and she eats fruits and veggies all day long, so I’m not worried). I divided and wrapped 4 very large pieces of halibut in the cedar wrappers, then put the two thin leftover pieces in a foil boat with a little butter for Ryley. The box suggested soaking the cedar in wine, sake, or bourbon for extra flavor, but we went for a simple water soak to get the full red cedar essence the first time around. They were so easy to cook because the string (which I had also soaked to avoid burning) kept the cedar paper tight around the fish, and it held the piece together even after flipping. Jeremiah called them presents on his grill!
While he watched those (just a few minutes on each side with the lid closed), I started the second side dish. I was trying to figure out what else would complement the delicate fish and I remembered a dish I saw on The Ranting Chef’s blog about broccolini (I love broccolini – hybrid of broccoli and asparagus – but also opted for just broccoli when I realized I’d have another grocery store scavenger hunt on my hands). Instead of crumbled matzo, I used panko, which gave it a great little crunch. Since panko is usually used in tempuras, I knew the flavor would go perfectly (and because I steamed and then dusted the broccoli with the mixture, it was much lighter than frying). Of course I put extra garlic in, and then I finished by finely grating a little Parmesan cheese on top. I only thought of adding it because although the crusted broccoli was delicious already, without realizing it the sauce I created for our fish had almost all the same ingredients and little cheese in it as well.
We tend to go simple with our foods – butter, oil, pepper, a rub, etc. – but sometimes it’s fun to do something different. I looked through a seafood cookbook at the flavored butters and sauces and landed on a creamy tarragon sauce that sounded like just what I needed. As I started the prep, lo and behold I had no tarragon. Weird that I thought I did! A quick google search of something like “I’m a dummy and imagine I have certain ingredients but really don’t, what can replace tarragon?” and many people said marjoram, thyme, or basil. Others said anise seed or fennel seed is similar also… ANISE! For the first time in my random life I actually have anise in my fridge, so I chopped up the tiniest bit (again, I didn’t want black licorice cream sauce on my fish!) and then added the garlic, green onions, and healthy dashes of marjoram AND thyme to my fake fish stock [see my Cioppino]. It said I could use mascarpone or heavy cream, and I just happened to have some mascarpone so I stirred it in. While simmering/reducing, it smelled a little too cheesy for the halibut, so Jeremiah graciously went to the store for some heavy cream, and between the two it was perfect. After adding a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, and the Parmesan, this sauce was AH. MAZE. ING. Honestly, I poured some on the halibut, then continued to spoon more as I ate. Then I poured some on my rice and taunted Jeremiah for not thinking of it first. After eating my broccoli, I sponged up the last bit of sauce on my plate with the panko droppings (I said droppings, haha), and then licked my plate, and possibly Jeremiah’s plate – not sure exactly, everything after tasting that sauce was a blur…
All the flavors were so perfectly congruent and balanced. The halibut was ridiculously moist and flavorful from the cedar wrap; just a subtle hint of wood-fired tastiness, and it melted like butter in our mouths without adding a single thing to it. The broccoli gave us some color and a fun crispy bite, and the rice finished the meal leaving us “fat and happy.” I don’t generally drink chardonnay, but it seemed appropriate and I had the rest from preparing the Cioppino. This was seriously one of the best fish-centered meals I’ve ever eaten, hands down. I let Jeremiah have seconds, and then stopped him before thirds so that I could have another taste of heaven today. I just might go for a swim in that sauce, so I’m off to find my bathing suit and give my compliments to the chef… 😉
1.5 lbs fresh halibut, portioned and wrapped in water-soaked cedar paper (nothing added to fish)
Broccoli steamed al dente, tossed in garlic herb panko with fresh parmesan
Steamed white rice
Heather’s Heavenly Herbed Mascarpone Cream Sauce:
1/2 c vegetable stock
1 tsp fish sauce
2 large cloves garlic, pressed
3/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp chopped anise
1 scallion, diced from bulb to leaves
1/2 c fresh mascarpone
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
That’s basically my sauce recipe BUT – and believe me, I have a really big
butt but – you don’t have to follow it exactly… because neither did I. The measurements are actually more like approximations since I kind of just threw things in, stirred, and sniffed. Feel free to adjust to your tastes or based around whatever dish you’ll be serving it with!