FIRST OFF!!!! (drum roll)… WRIGHTFOOD is now two years old!!! Bloody hell.
To mark this event I am doing something never before posted on this site… Yes folks, I have gone all healthy, and am doing a steamed halibut recipe. “Steaming fish??? MATT HOW DARE YOU!!”… I can hear it now. Well, it is true folks I am trying to balance my latest pork belly fixation with some lighter fare. To be honest, why not? It has been pretty hot here in Seattle recently and the last thing I want to be doing is braising meat.
OK, that is a lie. It is never too hot to braise meat.
Anyhow, we wanted a lighter meal last week, and this is what was bouncing around in that rather hairy head of mine. I had bought some sea beans at the farmers market that week, and had decided to pickle some. This wasn’t my great idea I should add. The stall sign at the market said “excellent pickled”. To be completely honest I doubt I would have ever thought of pickling them. Heck, the few handfuls I buy most weeks don’t normally last until I even get home.
Sea beans make a great snack.
I ended up pickling a handful of them in rice wine vinegar, sugar, star anise and ginger. Not blowing my own trumpet at all, but bloody hell, these were good. I wish I had made more. Heck, I have made more, a lot more since. What is even better is that they really don’t take long to pickle at all. It seems like some veg you have to leave in the mix for what seems like forever, but these guys even after just a couple of days had developed a really great anise flavor to them. A few more days in the mix, and you start to get the ginger come through too.
They have been a topping to many a sandwich I can tell you.
The porcini’s were an impulse buy. They were just hanging out in a basket at the same stall as the sea beans. Bastards. That just isn’t fair. I think I blew my farmers market budget right then and there. Porcini’s aren’t cheap, but heck are they good. I would easily go as far as to say they are my favorite mushroom, topping even the mightly morel. I always seem to prepare porcini’s the same way – oil and butter in a hot cast iron skillet, get it roaring over a high flame, then pop them into a really hot oven to brown up – almost like a good roast potato.
I don’t often steam fish. In fact, hardly ever. In all honesty, I know it is a very healthy way to cook, but I do like my halibut either seared or grilled. That is just me. The one thing steamed fish is really good for though is pairing with either a super delicate sauce, or a really strong one (no middle of the roaders here folks..). I can tell ya that this sauce is certainly no shy maiden. The original sauce idea came from the wonderful Secrets of the Red Lantern cookbook. I tuned it a little to my taste, but it essentially remains pretty true to the book. Lots of lemongrass, cilantro, lime and soy come through to make a really fantastic and rich sauce – a great play against light steamed fish.
Anyhow, for steaming I always turn to my bamboo steamer. I tried working with one of those collapsing metal ones that fits into a saucepan. No go. Especially for fish that likes to be flat. The bamboo steamers are far cheaper than I originally thought, and this one has been going great for years (and is still going), so a worthy investment I have to say. Anyhow, when using a bamboo steamer it is always best to put something between the food you are steaming, and the bamboo – especially when it is raw fish. Lightly flavored foods can take on a slightly bamboo taste (I think anyhow), and you don’t want too mush fish gunk on your steamer. For this, I like to use a bed of herbs. It gives the fish a great subtle aroma, and helps keeps everything clean to boot.
STEAMED HALIBUT RECIPE – ROASTED PORCINI MUSHROOMS, PICKLED SEA BEANS, LEMONGRASS SAUCE
3/4 lb halibut fillet, skin off – from a thick cut
cilantro, mint and lime leaves for steaming fish on
2 porcini halves – cleaned and cut into rough pieces
butter and grapeseed oil
pickled sea beans:
small handful of sea beans
1 cup of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 star anise
1inch long piece of garlic, cut into thin slices
1/6th cup sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon sliced lemongrass (white part only)
1 small handful cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the sea beans: Put the rice wine vinegar into a small saucepan, and bring to the boil. Add the sugar, boil for a minute until sugar is dissolved, then set aside to cool. Put the sea beans, ginger and star anise into a small sterile jar, and pour over the cooled pickling liquid. Store in the fridge for a couple of days before using, to let the flavors develop.
To make sauce, put all the sauce ingredients into a food processor, and blend to thoroughly combine.
Preheat oven to 475F. Heat up a tablespoon of grapeseed oil, and a tablespoon of butter in a cast iron skillet. When the butter is fizzing, toss in porcini pieces. Keep the heat up high, we want to really sear these guys. Turn them over occasionally. Cook on the stove top until the edges start to caramelize, then transfer to the oven for 15 minutes, or until they are nicely browned all over. Toss them once in the middle of the oven cooking process.
To steam the fish: Put an inch of water in the bottom of a wok, and put the bamboo steamer over. Make sure the water level is below that of the steamer tray. Cover the steamer tray in the fresh cilantro, lime leaves and mint. Sprinkle a little salt on the flesh side of the fish, and place flesh side up (flesh side if the skin was still on..) on top of the herbs. Put the lid on the steamer, and get the heat going on high under the wok. Steam for 10 minutes, or until the fish is cook through to your liking.
To plate – spoon a little of the sauce onto a plate, and top with some of the roasted mushrooms. Place the fish gently half on the mushrooms, half in the sauce. Serve with the pickled sea beans.
NEXT POST: Way back I did a rather clunky video of me getting fresh with a chicken (trussing). Yes folks, if all goes to plan, the next post is going to be a video one too. This time pan searing fish, and serving with a mussel sauce. Stay tuned.