I sent Jeremy to the store for a few end-of-month pantry staples, and he came home with lamb shanks and halibut steaks. We usually get fillets because fish bones still sort of wig me out, but steaks are definitely more affordable. The recipe I chose, potato-crusted halibut steaks, came together without too much difficulty: I was able to flip them without losing the potato crust and only doing minor splash damage to my hand. The caper-anchovy mayo binder added some great flavor to the fish, but I could take or leave the wine-based sauce; it was difficult even to taste it, and I’ve left it off the recipe below.
To go along with the fish, I made an unusual salad of sauteed red cabbage and wilted spinach in a balsamic vinaigrette which hit the perfect note—heartier than your standard salad, more interesting than cole slaw, with a tang and slight sweetness that set off the savory fish, and a much-needed burst of color on the plate. The cabbage and pancetta got pretty dark on the bottom over the medium heat called for, so I’ve adjusted the recipe slightly to compensate for next time. In all, this was a pretty impressive meal, the sort that would be excellent served to company.
Potato-Crusted Halibut Steaks
1/4 C mayonnaise
1 T chopped drained capers
4 flat anchovies, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped fine
six 1-inch-thick boneless halibut steaks (each about 7 ounces)
3/4 lb russet (baking) potatoes (about 1 1/2)
2 T olive oil plus additional if necessary
Preheat oven to 400°F. and lightly oil a shallow baking pan. In a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, capers, anchovies, and salt and pepper to taste. Pat halibut steaks dry and season with salt and pepper. Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly on top of steaks.
Peel potatoes and quarter lengthwise. Grate potatoes coarsely, preferably using a food processor. Do not rinse or squeeze potatoes. Immediately pat a heaping 1/4 cup potato evenly on mayonnaise mixture on each steak. (By moving quickly, you avoid letting the potatoes brown, and the starch from shredding them will help adhere them to the fish. I also didn’t bother peeling my potatoes.)
In a 12-inch non-stick skillet heat 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Carefully arrange 2 steaks, potato sides down, in oil and cook, pressing down occasionally with a slotted spatula, about 5 minutes, or until potato is golden brown and cooked through. Carefully invert steaks (potato sides should be up) and season with salt and pepper. Repeat procedure with remaining steaks, adding more oil to skillet if necessary. Bake steaks in pan in middle of oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until just cooked through.
Warm Red Cabbage and Spinach Salad
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
1 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 C pine nuts (I used sliced almonds)
2 oz sliced pancetta (Italian unsmoked cured bacon), chopped
1 lb red cabbage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 (5-oz) bag baby spinach, any tough stems discarded
Make vinaigrette: Mash garlic with salt to a paste. Whisk together garlic paste, mustard, honey, and vinegar, then add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.
Make salad: Toast nuts in a dry large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until beginning to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Remove nuts and add pancetta; cook until browned and crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove pancetta and add cabbage; cook, covered, over medium low heat until wilted and just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add spinach, stirring gently until it just begins to wilt. Remove pan from heat. Add vinaigrette, nuts, pancetta, and toss.