Final fish of the fiesta

January 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

(Editor’s note: please forgive formatting issues. I just upgraded my OS and it doesn’t seem to like wordpress.)
I know it sounds crazy, but walking the dogs on a sunny 23° morning, compared to a 1° morning, makes a significant difference (at least to me). It was enough to put a skip in this young man’s step. Unfortunately I threw my back out while skipping. I guess that’s why God gave us canes.
Well, we’ve reached the end of the run here my friends, our seventh fish of the feast. Stretching seven fishes over more than a week is much easier than preparing them all in one evening. It gave me plenty of time to think about the preparation and ingredients, not to mention writing about each one. But there is something very special about doing the Feast on Christmas Eve. So I hope we can do that with friends in the not-too-distant future. But until then, the Week of Seven Fishes will have to do.
Full disclosure, my seventh fish did not turn out as well as I had hoped. As in a traditional Feast, I wanted to end by serving a fish. I found some local halibut at one of our fish markets, and thought it would be the perfect way to cap off the Feast. It was a beautiful piece of fish, now what to do with it.
I wanted a fairly simple preparation, and I wanted to accompany the fish with a caponata. There are many variations on caponata, but the constant is the mixture of cooked vegetables with olives, tomatoes, capers, and herbs. It reminds me a bit of puttanesca, but perhaps not as saucy. I made my caponata with canned artichokes (in water, not oil). I also had a little tomato sauce left in the fridge so preparation was easy. Please note: the recipe for caponata below makes more than you need for two pieces of fish. If you like to snack on straight caponata (like I do) or want some extra for another dish, then make the amount below. If not, cut the amounts by half.
I was disappointed with my preparation of the halibut. At first I thought to roast it, but then I changed my mind and decide to pan fry it. I should have gone with my first thought. While I think the fish can be pan-fried, I should have finished it in a hot oven. Halibut is best cooked all the way through, unlike tuna which is at its best when it’s rare in the middle.
But it wasn’t a complete loss. (Editor’s note: it wasn’t a loss at all. It was delicious.) I cut the filet into smaller pieces and cooked a bit longer in the pan, and it turned out to be a nice dinner. I served it with pan-fried potatoes and roasted carrots with oil and balsamic.
I’ve enjoyed my run here. I think you’ll hear more from me on the blog. One of the local fishermen has promised to get me some scallops with roe intact, and Maine shrimp season starts at the end of the month. So I see more recipes and irreverent commentary coming from yours truly.
Until next time.
Pan-Fried Halibut with Artichoke Caponata
Inspired by: Grilled Fish with Artichoke Caponata, Food and Wine
Serves 2
3 T olive oil
½ celery rib, diced
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
½ cup prepared tomato sauce
¼ cup dry white wine (or dry vermouth)
2 T white wine vinegar
2-3 canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
6-8 pitted green or black olives, chopped
2 T toasted pine nuts
1 t sugar
1 T small capers, drained
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 T parsley
1 12 oz. Halibut filet or other firm white fish
Toast pine nuts in a dry pan until they just start turning light brown. Set aside.
Heat about 1 T olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add celery and onion cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and artichoke hearts and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, olives, pine nuts, sugar, and capers. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Go easy on the salt due to the olives and capers. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is reduced, about 8 minutes. Stir in half the parsley and let cool. (You can place caponata in a bowl and microwave before serving if you want it hot.)
Preheat oven to 375. Place the remaining parsley in small bowl with salt and pepper. Add about 2 T oil, combine, and rub over your fish. Heat an oven-safe sauté pan over medium heat. Add a small amount of oil and place fish in pan, flesh side down. Cook about five minutes. Turn fish over and place in the hot oven for about 5-7 minutes (if fish is thick, increase cooking time about 2 minutes). To test for doneness, remove fish from oven and slide knife into fish. If it goes through fish with no resistance at all, it is ready.
Place fish under broiler for a minute or two to brown the top if desired. Plate fish, top with caponata, and drizzle with olive oil.

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