I am still on cloud nine to be honest. The party hosted by WhiteonRice is still in my darn head, and I cannot get it out. Dani and I finally met the awesome couple, and can now call them friends. I am honored. The only bugger is they are in California, and we are in Seattle, so I cannot invite them over for dinner every weekend!! They managed to assemble such a fabulous range of bloggers, that are truly inspirational – it is no wonder I cannot stop thinking about that wonderful sunny afternoon in California.
But, think of other things I must. And this dish is a rather bloody good place to start. I actually knocked this one together before we left for the few days in CA, but just didn’t find time to develop the images before the plane took off.
I had been thinking about runner beans for a while. When I was a wee lad, back in England – many moons ago, my parents would grow runner beans (scarlet runner beans to you Yanks) every year. And every year I would be out picking them with Dearie, hardly being able to wait for her to cook them up. My favorite bean by a country mile (and we all know that is a long way..), I never grew sick of them. Not even when we were getting bucket loads in the height of season.
So off I went to the local farmers markets in search for some. No luck. Bastards. The bet I could do was Romano beans. They looked pretty similar, so I figured I would give em a shot. Turns out, they are bloody fantastic. Especially when mixed with some finely chopped bacon! (lardons).
What is the whole “French cut” thing you ask.. Sounds a bit poncy doesn’t it. All it really means is that the bean gets it string edges taken off, then cut into slices about 3mm wide, down the length of the bean. This is completely possible to do with a pairing knife. It would take bloody ages, absolutely ages if you were completely anal about prep as I am – if you are going to do something, you might as well do it right!
Step in the Krisk bean slicer. The Australians know a few things. They know how to drink beer. They know how to beat the English at just about every game we introduced to them. They also know how to make a super handy tool that French cuts a bean in seconds. That means they are OK by me!
So what is the big deal about French cutting beans you ask?
Well.. it is a number of things. Firstly, since every slice is an even thickness, they cook much more uniformly. They way they are sliced also means that they hold less water when boiled (my preferred method of cooking beans), which yields a better “bean” taste, and a far superior texture. Oh, and it looks pretty. This works great for the more fibrous runner and romano beans.
And lardons. OK, no one is going to argue with me here. Not much cannot be improved by a decent piece of fatty bacon, cut into pieces and fried. This just gives a little richness to the dish, especially the beans.
Salsa Verdi, with fish?? EWWWWW.
Actually, salsa verdi works amazingly well with mild flavored fish – just like halibut. It works especially well with grilled fish – but I prefer to pan sear/roast a decent piece of halibut – the flesh side sears so wonderfully in a pan. Salsa Verdi still works great with it.
Salsa Verdi is such a lively, fresh, herby taste that I just love it in summer with simple seafood. Having quite a bit of mint in this one really goes great with beans too.
To make this a little more accepting with fish, I added a couple of chopped anchovies to the verde, as the salt component. This just gives a really delicate fish edge, that is hard to detect, but helps all the flavors work together better.
I made this salsa pretty loose – lots of really good quality olive oil. Nothing is nicer than pushing your next mouthful of fish through the herby oil that is just running out onto your plate.
You will also notice my complete inaccuracy in the ingredients for the salsa verde. This is really is about taste, not measuring. If you like mint, add more mint. Likewise with basil or anchovies. Learn to make this one using taste and smell – it isn’t a dish of precision, more bursting fresh flavor.
Pan Roasted Halibut, French cut Romano Beans with Lardons, Salsa Verde
1lb of really thick halibut fillet, cut into two pieces
2 good handfuls of fresh romano or scarlet runner beans
2 pieces of fatty bacon, cut into small cubes (lardons)
1 small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
1 small handful of fresh basil
10 mint leaves
2 anchovy fillets
1 clove of garlic
1 dill pickle
1 small handful of capers
really good olive oil
splash of red wine vinegar
Start by making the salsa verdi. Finely chop, by hand, the parsley basil and mint. Put in a medium sized bowl. Finely chop the pickle and capers, and add to the bowl. Do the same for the anchovy fillets. Mash the garlic clove, and add. Add a splash of red wine vinegar, and now a good few glugs of the really good olive oil. Mix. If it is looking too dry, add more olive oil. Keep adding until everything looks moist, and there is a little oil in the bottom of the bowl. I like to chop this by hand, so that you see some great texture. If you are feeling lazy, the food processor is an option, but it will come out looking like mush.. with the texture of mush. In my mind, salsa verde is a sauce best left to a day when you have patience!
Let the verde stand at room temperature whilst you prepare everything else.
French cut the beans. If you are using a pairing knife – good luck to ya. This might take a while. But then, most people have better knife skills than I!! top and tail the bean, and cut it into thin sections, lengthwise. If you have a bean slicer then use it to top and tail the bean, and push/pull it through the slicer.
Preheat oven to 400F. Get a large pot of boiling water on the go for the beans.
Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a medium sized frying pan (big enough for both pieces of halibut). When the oil is hot, put the fish in, flesh side down. Regulate the heat carefully. We don’t want this to burn – a golden yellow color is perfect. Cook the fish like this for about 4 minutes – until the flesh is nicely golden.
Put the beans into the boiling water, and boil for 6 minutes. Do not overdo, overcooked beans are quite a let down. Strain when done.
Heat up a thick pan – preferably a well seasoned cast iron one. When hot, fry the bacon in this for about 4 minutes, until just cooked through.
Flip the fish over, and put it in the oven, for about 6 more minutes – but this really depends on the thickness of your halibut. This one was really pretty thick for me (hats off to Mutual Fish for that!). The fish is done when it is opaque throughout, and flakes easily with a fork.
In a large bowl toss the beans and the bacon together.
To plate – put a pile of salsa verde in the center of a plate. Push it into a circle using the back of a spoon. Top this with a generous helping of beans. Very carefully place the halibut fillet on top.