Cooking seafood is one of those things which many people find intimidating. I can understand why; most fresh fish and shellfish need to be cooked quickly, yet with care not to overcook. In addition, many people don’t have a lot of experience eating seafood beyond fish and chips and shrimp cocktail and swear they don’t enjoy fish (most likely because they have a bad association with poorly prepared or low quality product).
Fortunately, there’s a new cookbook out there which can dispel most of this uncertainty in an easy to use, approachable manner. Becky Selengut’s book, Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast is one of the most thorough books on cooking seafood I’ve seen in a long time. It’s beautifully presented and the friendly, no-nonsense take on cooking fish and shellfish is refreshing and non-intimidating for novice cooks. In fact, each chapter contains five recipes, ranging from easy to advanced. And because the focus is on sustainable seafood, without being preachy, there’s no question if what’s on the menu is good for the planet.
Three choices can make a world of difference:
*Diversify the kinds of fish you eat
*Be selective with your seafood purchases
*Limit the amount of seafood on your plate
There are many practical tips as well, such as the two page spread on “The Anatomy of a Flake” showing how to tell if a piece of fish is undercooked or overcooked, complete with photos and descriptions. There are also some very helpful how-to videos on the book’s website to accompany the recipes (make sure you watch the blooper video!). It’s really the complete package. Most of myy professional restaurant life has focused on cooking seafood and I very much appreciate the quality and accuracy of the information, but more than that, I really like Becky’s conversational writing style and that some of the recipe introductions are quirky and fun. Finally, sommelier April Pogue gives unique wine pairings with every recipe and the book’s photography, done by Clare Barboza, is absolutely stunning.
With permission from Becky, I’m sharing with you one of the recipes which appealed to me instantly; Roasted Halibut with Peas and Pancetta. It’s a perfect Spring-into-Summer recipe and on the easier side in terms of preparation (so y’all have no excuses not to try it!).
The photographs are mine, but the recipe is right out of the book (with my comments in italics).
If you’re interested in meeting Becky Selengut on her book tour, check out the schedule here.
Roasted Halibut with Radicchio-Pancetta Sauce, Peas & Artichokes
From the book: ”As with all the halibut recipes, really lean on the side of undercooking the fish. You can always cook it for another minute longer if it is not to your liking, but unless you know something I don’t about the progression of Father Time, a piece of overcooked fish has nowhere to go but more overcooked.”
1 lb of halibut, skinned and cut into 4 equal portions*
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
1 Tbsp high-heat vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 oz pancetta, lightly smoked bacon, or prosciutto, cut into medium dice (I used home made bacon)
1/2 cup sliced shallots
4 oz radicchio, chopped into bite sized pieces, about 3 cups
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp white wine or dry vermouth
1 cup fish stock, clam juice or vegetable broth (I used a light, home made chicken stock because that’s all I had)
1/2 cup frozen (thawed), canned or jarred artichoke hearts, quartered
1/2 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
*I used 2-6 oz portions with the rest of the ingredients the same. There was some left over sauce and vegetables which I happily ate for lunch the next day
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly season the halibut fillets with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof skillet over high heat, add the vegetable oil and sear the fillets for 3 minutes, or until they are browned on one side.
(My tip; heat the pan first, then add the oil and swirl in the bottom of the pan to coat it. This helps to keep the fish from sticking.)
Transfer the fish to a plate, and turn the heat down to medium high. Add the olive oil, pancetta and shallots and cook until the pancetta starts to crisp, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the radicchio and honey and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the radicchio starts to wilt and caramelizes. Add the white wine vinegar, white wine, and stock, stirring to loosen any bits clinging to the skillet.
Add the artichokes and peas, stir, then nestle (I love this word here) the halibut pieces back in the pan, browned side up.
Place the pan in the oven and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the halibut is done.
(Note; finishing the fish in the oven is a great tip and is frequently used in restaurants to ensure even cooking, rather than finishing on the stove-top which sometimes results in fish over done on the outside and raw in the middle.)
Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice over the top. Serve each person a piece of fish and portion of vegetables, ladling the broth over the top of the fish.
In the interest of full disclosure, about six months ago, Becky said something on Twitter like, “Who wants a preview copy of my new book when it comes out?” I could not type fast enough, “Me! Me! Me!” so my copy of this book was generously sent to me by the publisher.