Wild Alaskan seafood season has begun and halibut is starting to show up in the market. The four runs of salmon will soon follow: kings/chinook, reds/sockeye, pinks/dog and finally, silvers/coho. The following recipe is the epitome of simple and is a perfectly elegant meal for a weeknight or dinner party. Have fun with this meal and make it your own.
Alaskan Halibut on Tarragon Green Beans
Six to eight ounce halibut fillets (salmon may be substituted)
Fresh Tarragon, de-stemmed and chopped fine (the smell is intoxicating)
Green beans, ends snipped, cut on bias
Shallot, finely minced (optional)
Olive oil (need not be extra virgin)
Cooked rice, optional, kept warm
Lemon, cut in wedges
For sauce (optional) lemon juice or white wine, butter
- Blanch green beans in salted boiling water; about 4-5 minutes. Test one; it should not squeak when you bite into it, but should still have bite. Do not crowd the pan; this will turn the beans army green. Immediately transfer strained green beans to icy water to stop cooking. Drain and hold. This can be done ahead of time.
- Salt and pepper fillets.
- Mix together mustard and mayonnaise: two parts mustard to one part mayonnaise if mustard is mild; equal parts if pungent. Just before using, add 1-2 Tablespoons chopped tarragon. Save about a handful of chopped tarragon for the green beans.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place sauté pan, which can go into the oven — no plastic handles, on medium high heat. Splash in olive oil and butter. No need to use extra virgin olive oil — save that for non-cooked vinaigrettes or soups. When butter’s foam dissipates, gently place fillets in hot pan, better/presentation side down. Sauté 3-4 minutes until fillet bottom is slightly opaque and caramelized (edges crusty). The fillets should easily release from the pan.
- Slather mustard/tarragon mix on top of fillets and transfer pan to oven. Fish will be ready in about 3-5 minutes and still be slightly translucent in the middle. It will continue to cook when removed from oven. Do not cook until well done; fish will be overdone after carryover cooking off the heat.
- Transfer fillets to serving dish and tent with foil.
- In the pan, add more olive oil and butter until butter foams. Add shallots and sauté. Add green beans and gently toss in oil and shallots (really just re-warm). Add a larger amount — about a small handful — of tarragon to the pan.
- To plate: put mound of rice in center of plate, surround rice with green beans. Lay fish half on rice, half on green beans. Garnish with lemon wedge.
- You will not need a sauce; the mustard mix on the fish will suffice, but if you wish, swirl some lemon juice or white wine in the pan after you remove the green beans. Bring to boil and swirl in some cold butter. This make-shift sauce will be a nice finish to the dish—or not. Not necessary, but nice.
Susan Delbert joined The Fourth Estate Restaurant at the National Press Club as Executive Chef after working at The Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C. as Sous Chef for several years. Delbert has worked in several Washington restaurants, including The Oval Room, BeDuCi in Dupont Circle and Gerard’s Place. She started her culinary career as a Front of the House Maitre d’ in Clyde’s of Chevy Chase. She trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., where she graduated at the top of her class. She was an invited participant in an Italian regional cooking program sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission.