Saturday, 9 April 2016

Halibut on an Asparagus Raft with Crispy Shoestring Potatoes

I bought a beautiful piece of fresh halibut, as it is halibut season right now. Everything else that I served it with were 'use ups'...the last russet potato, the asparagus, some soft tomatoes and a ripe avocado.

After a lot of thought (all day while I was weeding the garden) I came up with this recipe...I turned the one potato into crispy shoestring fries, made a quick salad with the avocado and tomato and blanched the asparagus to make a 'raft' to hold everything.

The plate looked great, and the food tasted amazing. It was an easy meal to put together, and perfect for a warm Spring evening... crispy asparagus, creamy avocado and crunchy potatoes and the fresh, flaky fish.

Start by heating the oven to 400F, for the fish. Heat vegetable oil in a deep pan...I used a wok as it stays hot because of the design. You will need about 3" of oil, enough to shallow fry the potatoes.

Using a food processor fitted with the smallest grating blade, cut:

1 peeled russet potato.

Soak the cut potatoes in cold water for about 10 minutes to remove the excess starch.

When the oil is hot enough to cook the potatoes, about 350F, drain them well, and pat them dry.

Add no more than a third of the potatoes to the hot oil. It will bubble up because of the moisture on the potatoes, so be careful!

Gently stir the potatoes a couple of times during cooking to ensure that they are not sticking together.

When the potatoes are golden brown and crispy, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, allowing excess oil to drain back into the pot.

Place the cooked potatoes onto a tray lined with paper towel while you cook the remaining potatoes.

Continue to cook the potatoes, placing each portion onto the paper towel as they are done. While they are cooking, you can start the fish.

Gently pat the halibut dry with paper towel to remove any excess moisture. I had enough halibut for three people, and I left the skin on.

Rub the flesh side of the fish with:

2 cloves garlic, minced
zest of half a lemon
salt and pepper

In a heavy bottomed pan, that can be put directly into the oven, heat some olive oil until smoking hot.

Add the halibut, skin side down, and leave to cook for about 5 minutes, before placing the pan into the pre-heated oven to finish cooking the fish.

While the fish is in the oven, and the shoestring potatoes are being cooked,  make the avocado and tomato salad.

For the avocado and tomatoes, dice:

2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 avocado
1 green onion

Mix gently, with:

Juice of 1 lime
drizzle of avocado oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place the cooked and drained shoestring potatoes into a large bowl, and season to taste with:

black pepper
garlic powder

When the fish is cooked, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes, while you blanch the asparagus.

Cut the fish into 3 portions.

Assemble the dish:

Place the asparagus in the centre of each plate, forming a 'raft'. Put three scoops of tomato and avocado salad around the plate. Gently position the fish on top of the asparagus and then add a handful of crispy shoestring potatoes to the top of the fish.

  • I left the skin on the fish as it crisps up when it first goes into the hot pan, and this makes it nice and easy to remove the piece of fish from the pan, cut it into portions and then place them on top of the asparagus. Some people also like to eat the crispy skin.
  • The fish can be pre-portioned if this is easier for you. Cook it the same way.
  • Chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or dill can be added to the lemon zest and minced garlic for the fish. Lime zest can be used instead of lemon if you prefer.
  • To trim the asparagus, gently bend each stem and it will snap off at the junction of the tender tip and the tougher bottom end. The tough end can be saved and added to pasta or soup. Thinly slice it and it will cook quickly and you will have tender bits of asparagus.
  • Bring lightly salted water to a boil, and add the asparagus, making sure to keep the tips all facing in the same direction...this makes it easier to portion the stems out into the 'rafts'. When the water boils again, leave the asparagus for no more than thirty seconds, before draining and serving. You will have bright green, crispy asparagus spears.
  • Grilled asparagus can be used if you choose; the fish can also be grilled on a well oiled grill. Turn it once, half way through the cooking time. 
  • Other fish that work well for this kind of presentation include salmon, marlin, cod or sablefish.
  • This can also be made with meat such as chicken breast, pork or beef tenderloin (thinly sliced and cooked).
  • You may have noticed that there is no sauce, but the richness of the fish, and the creaminess of the avocado served as a sauce. If you wish to make a sauce, a simple lemon or white wine butter sauce can be used.
  • Other vegetables can be used as the base for the carrots; thinly sliced and quickly seared or grilled zucchini rounds; baby potatoes cut in half and placed flat side down, boil them and toss them in herb butter; thinly sliced roasted beets.
  • I only had one russet potato, but it made enough shoestring potatoes for four of us. Russet or Kennebec potatoes both work well; sweet potatoes can also be used.
  • The seasoning for the potatoes is endless, and depends on your imagination. Some ideas are smoked paprika, salt and pepper; chopped fresh rosemary and black pepper; a drizzle of truffle or flavoured oil; ground hot peppers such as ancho or chipotle; tandoori spice.

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