Tuesday, May 4, 2010
My dad may or may not have been a pirate in a former life. Let’s just say there is some pretty hefty evidence to hint at this hidden history of his. He once spent a night in the middle of a severe hurricane, asleep on a Martha’s Vineyard beach underneath his dingy, with only his raincoat and khaki shorts as clothing. Apparently, he had ignored several severe weather warnings that day and sailed, solo, over to the island; being high tourist season, every motel and inn were booked solid. Despite the gale force winds, tsunami grade waves and lighting rippling against the sky he figured it would not be such a big deal if he simply caught some shut eye underneath the shelter of his dingy on the beach, outside, in a hurricane. I should mention that this was not during his wayward youth. This was actually not that long ago, I’m pretty sure after he had retired from teaching, which means he was sufficiently over the age of 50. About three hours into his slumber he was awoken by what sounded like a truck barreling along the ground beside him. Curious, he lifted the edge of his shelter just enough to peek out and see a coke machine rolling along the beach with all the lightness of a ball of tumbleweed. The wind was strong enough to yank a 500 pound machine out of a wall socket and toss it along the ground like a soccer ball, but my dad was perfectly content to sleep underneath a teensy boat shelter. He is clearly of a burlier, sea faring lot than I. For if I was faced with the same situation would be curled in a ball, weeping on the floor of the police station, or some other actual building structure that I was sure would at the very least protect me from certain death. I’m just saying, if my dad came clean tomorrow and told us all that he had a secret pirating fortune hidden somewhere, some navy seal training he had neglected to mention or that he once spent a fortnight mentoring Bear Grylls, these disclosures would make sense to me.
So, it goes without saying that pirates eat fish. They kind of have to. And I think lemonade, to ward off scurvy. When I cook for my dad I always tend to lean in the direction of seafood. This may also be a subliminal attempt by me to get him to stop eating smoked mackerel for breakfast (I’m not kidding. Is this not behavior that perhaps a certain pirate may be privy to?) because it is the single most disgusting thing a human being can eat, let alone for breakfast. My dad’s apartment is below where my office is. So on mornings when he prepares smoked mackerel, everyone in the building suffers, especially me, because my sense of smell which at times is nonexistent is for some reason, hyper acute in the a.m. hours. It’s like someone just came in the back door and dumped a truckload of fish carcasses on the floor. You can imagine how fun this is on mornings when I have perhaps had a bit too much to drink the night before. So maybe I have a hidden agenda. Maybe if I offer him other kinds of fish at a meal time where fish is actually appropriate (read: not breakfast) he will eventually drop the mackerel as his go-to breakfast treat.
I decided on halibut “just for the halibut?!” my dad said, chuckling, several times as I prepared dinner. Yes, just for the hell of it. Because when one is spending $25.00 on a piece of fish, caution has been thrown to the wind. I had planned on cod or scallops but when I got to the fish market the thick, white slabs of halibut called out to me. They said “Jess, do have any idea how delicious we’re going to be?” If you only cook fish as a treat once in a great while, do yourself a favor and splurge on some halibut. It’s such a great fish; you barely have to do anything to it to make it taste spectacular. It’s almost impossible to overcook unless you’re really trying. Also, this halibut (if you’re buying halibut make sure it is “Pacific” or “Wild Alaskan”), is in season and caught sustainably. If you want to know what’s bad about unsustainable fishing read this (and don’t blame me if you don’t eat shrimp anymore). Sometimes the higher price tag is worthwhile. In this case, I think so.
PAN SEARED HALIBUT with HERB SHALLOT BUTTER
1 ½ lbs. Alaskan halibut
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. butter
3-4 tbs. softened butter (good quality like Kerry Gold)
½ shallot, minced finely
2 tbs. flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbs. chives, chopped
sprinkle of garlic salt
fresh ground pepper
Add shallot, herbs, garlic salt and cracked pepper to softened butter. Mash everything together well with a fork, set aside while you prepare fish.
Preheat oven to 350. Heat olive oil and butter in an oven-safe skillet over medium high heat. Cut halibut into single serving sized pieces and salt and pepper each side. Add pieces of fish to the hot pan and let brown on one side (only about 2 minutes); check to see if the fish will move. If it will move, it’s ready to be flipped, if it sticks, it may not be ready yet. Flip pieces so browned side faces up. Place skillet in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the fish from the oven and spoon a dollop of the compound butter over each piece. Squeeze lemon over the whole pan, serve immediately. Serves 4. We had ours with asparagus roasted with garlic and shallots and a mixed green salad. Simple, supper. Pretty healthy if you think large dollops of butter count as healthy. And I do.