Seafood Recipes

Herb and citrus crusted halibut, roasted and dressed beet, turnip à la grecque

August 24, 2009

I nearly didn’t take a picture of this one. But then I thought “sod it”, crusting fish is one of my favorite ways to get non-seafood people eating fish, and a few people have asked me what I cook for people that aren’t fussed about seafood. That, and bathing black cod in a sake kasu mixture (it seems like most people like almost anything soaked in booze then cooked).

It seems like when you crust fish, you have yourself two options. One is to dredge the fish in flour, egg, and whatever you choose, then fry it up to a crisp. Nothing wrong with that – it works great on thin fillets of fish like tilapia. To me this can also be kinda heavy. Great if you want that kind of thing, but this time round I didn’t.

The second option is to sear the fish skin side, to get a crispy skin, and cook the fish almost half through. Get your oven nice and hot, pop your crusting mixture on the flesh (up) side of the fillet to form a lovely hairpiece, and bung it in the oven. By the time the fish is cooked through the crust has browned nicely but it still light, and keeps the delicate nature of fish intact. This is what you see above. No flour, no eggs. Light and easy does it.

So… “what can you crust fish with?” you might ask.. In my mind quite a lot. Breadcrumbs, especially panko, always seem to make it into the mix for me. I love fresh flavored herbs (mint, parsley, basil) with fish – so those often go in to the crusting bowl too. Citrus has the great effect of adding acidity to any dish, making things lighter – so why not pop some citrus zest in too?

Well, that is exactly what I did here. A simple crust of olive oil, panko, sea salt, basil/parsley/mint, and some lemon zest. My suggestion is to make twice as much as you need, I always seem to end up eating the crusting mixture by the spoonful as I am cooking…

We have been getting a ton a really great beets from the garden the last couple of weeks, so time to make good use of those. Here I just simply roast them, peel them, and dress them with salt, olive oil and chopped parsley. Personally I like them almost cold like this, but then I am a strange Englishman…

Going with this is turnips. Oh dear. The poor turnip gets a rather bad rap, especially among us Brits. Every Brit remembers Blackadder, with Baldrick and his turnips – not the best press for this fantastic little root vegetable. The thing is though that not only are they rather tasty, but they are also pretty darn good for you too. Turnips have a lot of Vitamin C in them, something to dose up on when you have a toddler germ factory. The greens of turnips are actually really great too, and often sadly overlooked. They are a great natural source of Vit A, C,lutein and calcium.

The turnips are cooked à la grecque – a great little technique I found in the Bouchon cookbook. Vegetables are trimmed to small sizes (disks, slices, turned, whatever), and poached in a court bouillon. They then cool in this liquid, and can be stored as so for a couple of days. You then take them out of the liquid before serving, reduce the liquid to a glaze, chill it, and toss said veg with this reduced court bouillon. A simple cold vegetable recipe that I just find myself doing over and over again. Almost any root vegetable works here, especially celery root and carrots.

Herb and citrus crusted halibut recipe, roasted and dressed beet, turnip à la grecque

(serves 2)

3/4lb fresh halibut fillet, cut into two portions

2 handfuls of panko breadcrumbs

1 small handful of fresh basil – finely chopped

1 small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley – finely chopped

1 small handful of fresh mint – finely chopped

salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon zest

olive oil

8 small beets

3 small turnips

additional parsley for dressing

for the court bouillon:

a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley

a few thyme sprigs

12 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons celery seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 cup water

1 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup minced shallots

Start by slicing the turnips thinly – a mandolin works great for this.  Cover with a damp cloth. Make up the court bouillon mixture – put all the herbs and spices in a piece of double wrapped cheesecloth, and tie up. Put the water, wine, lemon juice and shallots in a medium sized pan, and bring up to the boil. Toss in the sliced turnip into the liquid, and cook them until just tender – 5 to 10 minutes depending of the thickness of the slice.

Put the turnips, the liquid, and the herb bundle into a shallow dish, and allow to cool. I like to float it in an ice bath just to speed this up. You can store the turnips for a couple of days in the liquid like this.

Get your oven going at about 400F. Put the beets in a ovenproof dish, cover tightly with foil, and roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Allow to cool just enough to touch, and rub them over with a towel to remove the skin. I find fresh beets always seem to give up their skin much better than older ones.

Allow them too cool right down, and toss with a little olive oil, salt and finely chopped parsley.

Drain the turnips from their liquid, discard the herb bundle, reserve the liquid and turnips. In a small pan over a medium/high heat reduce the turnip liquid to a glaze – so it nicely coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool completely. Toss the turnips with the reduced liquid. Season with salt, and a little chopped parsley.

In a bowl combine the breadcrumbs, mint, basil, parsley, lemon zest. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and mix well. If the mixture still seems pretty dry, and more in. You want just enough so it clumps together well.

In a nonstick pan over a medium heat, get a couple of tablespoons of olive oil hot. Add in the fish skin side down (or what would have been skin side, if the skin is removed). Cook for about 5 minutes on the stove top, being careful not to let the oil get too hot.

Remove the pan from the heat and very carefully pile up the crusting mixture onto the fish. Don’t worry if some spills off, just try to get a decent thick, even coating on the flesh side of the fish.

Roast the fish in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and the crust is nicely browned.

To serve, put the fish on a plate, and next to it a row of turnip slices, a few slices deep. Top the turnip with the dressed baby beets.

Serve with a simple side salad.

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  • Peter G August 24, 2009 at 9:06 am

    This is a great ad for making more people eat fish. I usually crust mine as well most of the time. I’m also very intrigued by the “turnips a la grecque”..must def give this a try as it doesn’t seem too hard. Cheers Matt!

  • nina August 24, 2009 at 9:30 am

    There you go again……create a perfect dish!!! Wow, you are truly an inspiration!!!

  • Jennifer August 24, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    From this post on, I always will see a “crusting mixture” as a “hairpiece”—hilarious.

  • Colloquial Cook August 24, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    “Uh? What’s wrong with beer batter?” 😀

    No, seriously, I’m very much looking forward to experimenting with this crusting method. Will let you know.

  • mattwright August 24, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Peter – It is awesome, especially in the summer since you should really serve them cold or room temperature.
    Nina – Thanks!
    Jen – it just really reminded me of those bad hairpieces !
    Colloquial – NOTHING WRONG WITH BEER BATTER! I swear I have eaten my own weight of the stuff at least twice over. This method is great though, much lighter for sure.

  • Giff August 24, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    I agree with everything — beautiful, heightened flavors, and not overly fussy. Great meal.

    I agree that the turnip is under-appreciated, especially baby turnips in spring time. Some people like to mix parsnip with mashed potatoes, but I prefer the slightly horseradishy edge of turnip in there. I like the glaze approach and will definitely try that.

    I’m off to go buy halibut myself… was flipping through a richard olney book and baked halibut with mushrooms and cream screamed out at me, weather be damned.

  • Cookie August 24, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    What a beautiful meal! I’ve used Old Bay and breadcrumbs to encrust salmon before but yours look way more gourmet. Definitely wanna try this!

  • lisaiscooking August 24, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Beautiful crusting for the fish, and the beets and turnips sound delicious! I like beets and turnips served just about any way.

  • kate the bake August 25, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Hey, here’s a brit who loves turnip (& Blackadder, that is obligatory!). I have never eaten celery root though or is celery root aka celeriac?
    Lovely recipe – definitely one to try this weekend,
    Thank you

  • mattwright August 25, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Giff: Glad you like turnips too! They are excellent in a creamy gratin too.
    Cookie: thanks!
    Lisa: Glad to hear someone else likes turnips!
    Kate – Celery root is indeed celeriac.

  • Debi (Table Talk) August 29, 2009 at 1:24 am

    –A really fantastic way to prepare the halibut and appreciate the fresh flavor of the fish . The Panko adds just the right amount of warmth and crunch to the dish without weighing it down.

  • The Wind Attack August 29, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Your wonderful blog is partly responsible for pushing me out of strict vegetarianism and into eating some sustainable seafood. Halibut has quickly become my favorite, and I love that you posted this recipe, as I needed to mix it up from the usual lemon-caper sauce I’d been doing.

    Just made a dish inspired from this, using breadcrumbs from some stale bread, pinenuts and dried herbs. Topped the fish with a fried egg and a marinated artichoke heart, sun-dried tomato and arugula salad. Why can’t every meal be so delicious.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • gabe September 6, 2009 at 1:10 am

    made it, served it tonight, and everybody loved it! thank you!!