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La Belle Cuisine - More Fish Recipes

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Fine Cuisine with Art Infusion

"To cook is to create. And to create well...
is an act of integrity, and faith."


A Perfect Fit for Halibut



SeaBear Smokehouse
Hook and line caught Alaskan Halibut at SeaBear.com

"Fish, to taste right, must swim three times -
in water, in butter, and in wine."
~ Polish Proverb

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View from Halibut Cove, Alaska
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Gold, Stacy
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La Belle Cuisine


A Perfect Fit for Halibut

by Alain Ducasse, with Florence Fabricant

The New York Times April 17, 2002

"I love looking at new ways to prepare foods. A few years ago, I wanted to
rethink the way turbot is usually cooked and served. I was tired of steaming
or sautéing it, and besides, I wanted a more precise method for cooking a
fish that might not have uniform thickness.
What I came up with, cooking thin, carefully cut pieces of a fillet between
sheets of parchment paper in a pan with no added fat, translates perfectly
to halibut, a fish that's much easier to obtain in the United States than
turbot. With a nice center-cut slice of fresh halibut fillet, there's no trick
to dividing the fish down the middle, then cutting each half into uniform
slices no more than a quarter-inch thick. The fish's shape will automatic-
ally make the contours uniform.
Placing the slices of fish between paper makes them easier to add to the pan
and to turn all at once. They're done in a minute. It's a very natural cooking
method that allows the flavor of the fresh fish to come through. The fish does
not get brown, but a sauce colors the plate. Be sure to arrange the slices at-
tractively  — four small ones to a plate — and leave room for your sauce.
We place them in a square with the sauce in the middle, but you can fan
them out or line them up and spoon the sauce over them.
Parsley and just a whiff of garlic give the shellfish-butter sauce a pretty
spring-green color and an alluring snail-butter flavor. I like tiny clams and
small chunks of lump or peeky-toe crab meat in the sauce, or I might use
finely diced squid or rock shrimp. White wine and the clam juices are re-
duced for the base, and parsley butter is whisked in a little at a time, for
a kind of beurre blanc.
You can do almost anything with the garnish. If you don't want to serve this
lean fish with a butter sauce, go to the market, find ingredients you like and
do whatever pleases you, like using tomatoes in summer.
When you serve this dish, you might want to open a bottle of Lieb Family
Cellars pinot blanc 2000 from the North Fork of Long Island, or a blend
of crisp vermen-tino softened with sémillon from the Côtes-de-Provence,
the Domaine Saint-André-de-Figuière vieilles vignes 2000. Neither wine
will cost more than about $15."


Halibut With Parsley-Shellfish Sauce

Time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 servings

1 1/3 pounds center-cut halibut fillet,
in one piece, skinned
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 1/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley
leaves, plus 4 sprigs
 1/4 pound butter at room temperature
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
 1/4 cup minced fennel
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 clove garlic, sliced
36 cockles, scrubbed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Freshly ground white pepper
 1/4 pound lump crab meat, picked
free of cartilage
Fleur de sel *

* Fleur de sel: Sea salt, hand-harvested from the waters around the Guérande Peninsula and the island of Noirmoutiers on the Atlantic coast of Brittany, is
used exclusively in Ducasse’s kitchens for its flavor. Because it has not been
refined, it has more flavor than standard salt and tastes slightly iodized, like
the saltiness of an oyster. Sea salt is gray; refining whitens salt.
There are two grades of sea salt used: the top-quality fleur de sel and the sel
de Guérande, which is used as an all-purpose salt. Both are coarse-grained.
The fleur de sel is, literally, the “flower of the salt”; that is, it’s that part of
the salt that forms above the water… Fleur de sel is Ducasse’s favorite
ingredient: He finds it essential for seasoning.

1. Cut halibut in half at central "seam," then cut each half in 8 slices about  1/4-inch thick. Brush slices with olive oil on both sides. Place 4 slices
side-by-side on a 6-inch-square piece of parchment paper. Top with
another piece of parchment. Repeat with remaining halibut. Set the
packages aside.
2. With food processor running, drop 1/4 cup parsley through feed tube. Process until minced. Add butter to processor and process until well
blended. Remove to a dish.
3. Place wine, bay leaf, fennel, shallot and garlic in a saucepan with tight-fitting lid. Cook uncovered over medium-high heat until wine is reduced
to about 1/2 cup. Add cockles, cover, lower heat and simmer until they
open, about 5 minutes. Remove cockles, shuck into small bowl and
cover with plastic wrap. Set aside.
4. Strain cooking liquid, pressing on solids, into clean saucepan. Simmer
until reduced to 1/4 cup. Over very low heat, whisk in parsley butter
about a tablespoon at a time. Add lemon juice. Taste for seasoning,
adding white pepper. Fold in cockles and crab meat and cover to
keep warm.
5. Place a 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place one package of halibut in pan, cook 30 seconds on each side and remove
from pan with spatula. Repeat with remaining fish. Peel off paper and
arrange four slices of fish on each of four warm plates, making a
square. Season lightly with fleur de sel and pepper.
6. Spoon warmed seafood butter sauce into the center of each square,
then spoon a little around the outside. Garnish with parsley and serve.

 Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company Used with permission.

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