Fish night: Seared halibut aiolli garni
Memories of Friday night fish night inspired this nostalgic and tasty dish.
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Instead of waiting for Friday, and going against my mum’s rubric of no-frying, but keeping with the buying of white fish on a Tuesday, we made a version of the Provencal classic, aioli garni, with a pan seared halibut fillet, steamed fennel and butter beans. Rather like much of the cooking I experienced growing up, it doesn’t look like much on the plate – the pale colors and the two sauces lapping against one another may seem bland – but the sharp tang of the garlicky aiolli with the surprising hot peppery-bite of the brown sauce against the muted flavors of the white fish and butter beans makes for an unusually rewarding dish. I am convinced that my mum would’ve enjoyed this dish a great deal, even though she would have asked why we didn’t save it for Friday night. As for my dad, well, sadly, he wouldn’t touch it on account of it humming with garlic. Too bad for him.Skip to next paragraph
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Pan-Roasted Halibut with Aioli Garni and Butter Beans
Adapted from Rick Stein’s Coast to Coast, BBC Books, 2008
1 8-ounce can butter beans
1/2 red onion, sliced finely
1 fennel bulb, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
2 fillets (white fish, halibut, code, hake, flounder)
For the brown sauce:
2 carrots, 1 large stick celery, half Spanish onion, 1 leek, all chopped finely
1/2 stick butter
Handful of dried mushrooms
1 medium hot dry chile, whole
1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
1 pint fish stock
1/4 cup cognac
For the aioli:
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium or 2 small egg yolks
2 teaspoons lemon juice
6 ounces best olive oil
In a small saucepan on medium heat, sweat the red onion gently in olive oil until soft, but still pink and with some texture.Add butter beans, season with salt and pepper and some chopped fennel tops, and another good jigger of olive oil. Keep warm until service.
To make the brown sauce, in a saucepan, sweat the carrot, leek, celery and Spanish onion together in some butter until soft. Add hot pepper.
Increase heat to high and add cognac. Allow to reduce by half before adding fish sauce and fish stock. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain and stir in remaining butter, keep warm.
Either boil or steam fennel until soft – 5-8 minutes depending on technique.
Preheat oven to 360 degrees F/180 degrees C.
Crush and finely chop garlic with a sprinkle of sea salt. In a large bowl, mix with egg yolks and lemon juice, then whisking constantly, (or with a stick blender) begin adding the olive oil slowly. When you’ve got an emulsion going, you can add the oil more quickly, but if the whole thing breaks, start over again from scratch.
In saucepan over medium-high heat, add two or three tablespoons of olive oil, and, having seasoned the fish fillets with salt and black pepper, place them skin-side down in the pan.
Cook until skin releases from pan, 3-5 minutes depending on size of fillet, turn and place in oven for a further 5 minutes.
Plate beans, fish, fennel together with aioli and brown sauce. Soft boiled egg optional. Garnish with fennel tops.
Related post: Livornese Fish Stew
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