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Pan-Seared Halibut with Corn-Coriander Salsa

Pan-Seared Halibut with Corn-Coriander Salsa
  

For the July version of the Paper Chef competition, Kevin of Seriously Good decreed the ingredients to be corn, ground coriander and pine nuts, all combined with something celebratory of our nation's independence. It didn't take me long to settle on locally-caught halibut as my symbol of independence, for a number of reasons: the halibut is a predatory ruler of the sea, swimming powerfully where it will in search of food, which is basically whatever other animals it can fit in its mouth. Though the idea of the U.S. as a powerful nation has been perverted and misused by our "leaders" in recent years, there is no denying that strength is necessary if a nation is to become and remain free and independent, so this fish to me is symbolic of American strength and independence. Also, as one of the dwindling list of wild-caught foods in our diet, the halibut represents a connection to our primordial past, when food was hunted or gathered instead of cultivated and processed, which, when I'm in a romantic mood, seems like a time of independence and freedom. (Of course, the unrelenting need to find or kill enough food for the family probably didn't feel much like freedom to our ancient forebears....!) And finally, I chose halibut to honor the fiercely independent and self-reliant American fishermen and women who brave the sea to best the halibut and put this beautiful food on our tables. These strong men and women, almost all of them small independent operators, are living symbols of American independence and determination to me.

HalibutfishermanWith regard to the dish itself, there are lots of things that came to mind for the remaining ingedients in the assignment -- fritters and cakes and puddings and other such preparations -- and the ground coriander suggested Indian cuisine, of which I'm fond, but I wanted the halibut to be a part of the dish, rather than just accompanied by something made from the other ingredients, and at the same time I wanted the halibut to stand forward and not be overwhelmed by strong flavors. The result of this thinking was a the conclusion that the fish should be very simply prepared and then paired with a simple, fresh salsa based on corn, tomato and coriander -- supportive but not competitive with the halibut's flavor. Toasted pine nuts, a regular feature of my cooking, were a welcome topping to this plate.

At the table, Elise deemed the dish "a keeper," and I was very pleased with it myself. As intended, the coriander/corn/tomato salsa complemented but did not overwhelm the fish, and the pine nuts added a pleasantly crunchy taste accent. Overall, we thought it seemed a fittingly celebratory meal for the anniversary of our nation's independence.

Pan-Seared Halibut with Corn-Coriander Salsa

Halibut steaks, 1" thick
Olive oil
4" leek segment, white part only
1/3 C white wine
4 T butter
1 T coriander seeds
1 medium tomato, 1/4" dice
2 thick slices sweet onion, 1/4" dice
3 T chives cut in 1/16" segments
1-1/2 ears cooked corn, cut from ears
3 T pine nuts
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Salt, hot sauce to taste

Wash the leek segment. Cut in quarters lengthwise, then crosswise at 1/4" intervals. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan, add the wine and leek pieces and cover. Braise over low temperature for about 15 minutes until leek is tender.

Meanwhile, toast the coriander seeds in a dry pan over high heat, stirring constantly, until their color darkens and they start to smoke. Remove from heat immediately and grind to a powder with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Toast the pine nuts in a small dry pan over high heat, stirring constantly, until they are mottled with brown. Remove from heat.

Stir the ground coriander into the braised leeks and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes to reduce the liquid and infuse the mixture with the coriander flavor. Remove from heat and stir in the diced tomato and onions, chives, corn, the remaining two tablespoons of butter and the vinegar. Season to taste with hot sauce and salt.

Wash the fish steaks and dry completely. Place 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet and heat until the oil is very hot but not yet smoking. Sear the steaks 90 seconds on a side.

To serve, place the fish on a bed of the salsa. Garnish with a spoonful of the salsa, a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and a few strands of chives.

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Comments

Oh wow!! This looks totally gorgeous Stephen, fantastic photo!
I too had many ideas for the ingredients in this round, chowder, fritters, cupcakes... however in the end I settled on a dessert.

Now we really know you're settled in ... welcome back to Paper Chef!

Lovely as usual, Stephen. Fish was my "independent" ingredient too; I guess what they say about great minds and all might be true...

What an awesome photo of the fisherman with fish!

Paz

Really Innovative Recipe! The best part of it is that it is completely healthy.

A similar recipe speaks of braising veggies like carrots, beans, cabbage in fish stock. This mixture is then tempered with herbal paste and seasonings before pouring on pan-seared trout fillets.

But your recipe has more tangy flavors. Though you used a single Indian spice, yet the fusion of tomatoes and onion speaks more like an East Indian gravy base.

But with bold halibut you can give your readers bold and overpowering flavors on the Independence Day.

That salsa sounds fantastic...I'm sure the whole dish tasted divine! Thanks for sharing with us your wonderful recipes :)

Congratulations on the Paper Chef #19 Win!!

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