Halibut with Warm Cabbage Slaw

HalibutI had a recipe already picked out when I bought the Halibut at the Farmers Market on Saturday, but then when I went back and re-read it, Halibut with a Vegetable Nage, it sounded a lot like the New England Boiled Dinner I did last week. A nage is a broth, generally vegetable, which is made by cooking vegetables and herbs in water. Then you strain and discard the vegetables and use the nage to poach additional vegetables. A purist would poach the vegetables and the Halibut in the nage, but in that recipe the halibut is marinated and then grilled and served with the vegetables au jus.

Meanwhile, I made my “lunch soup” with Savoy cabbage. As is often the case, I had half a head of cabbage left over. Maybe I can do my Halibut with braised cabbage.

Faced with an uncooked vegetable, my first step is to check my eatsforone files; nothing there for braised cabbage. There is one reference to a Halibut recipe that I really like, Grilled Halibut Fillets on Potato Gratin with Olives, Tomatoes and Basil from the Dean & Deluca Cookbook. I’ve done that a few times, good and EZ. But that doesn’t address my cabbage problem opportunity.

The next place I looked is Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables. This is one of the best reference cookbooks ever. There’s a narrative and recipes for every vegetable known to man (almost) and includes growing season, species, how to use the vegetable, and other foods that are complementary. And it is arranged alphabetically; how easy is that? In the cabbage entry, she mentions that cabbage is “,surprisingly good with fish,” so I’m not totally off base. She even has a recipe for Halibut with Braised Cabbage, but I’m feeling more adventuresome. A recipe that might work is Warm Cabbage, Onion, and Apple Slaw, and I happen to have a couple of apples.

I looked in a few of my favorite cookbooks for Halibut recipes, and landed in Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. They like to grill Halibut and serve with flavored butters. Julia likes the grill-and-low-oven method. So do I. Actually, most Halibut recipes start with grilling the fish, just as with scallop recipes.

Alice Waters recipe serves 8 to 10 and is meant to accompany pork, roast chicken or duck, so I’ll have to mess with it a little. The nage recipe that I had selected, marinates the halibut in lemon juice, so I think I’ll go in that direction, and for the slaw, substitute lemon juice for vinegar and add a pinch of sugar and some thyme. The presentation turned out very white, so I sprinkled the slaw with paprika for a touch of color. Tasted good, too.

Grilled Halibut with Warm Cabbage, Onion, and Apple Slaw

1 small onion, sliced very thin*
1/2 Savoy cabbage sliced into a fine chiffonade**
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced very thin***
salt & pepper
lemon juice
I or 2 Halibut fillets (I have one, 12-ounces)

In a sealed plastic bag, marinate the halibut in the juice of a small lemon. Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour.

In a sauté pan, heat a little oil and begin to sauté the onions. When they are translucent and just beginning to brown, add the apple slices and saute about one minute so everything is sizzling. Add the cabbage, salt & pepper a dash of lemon juice, a pinch of sugar and a little water. Increase the heat and stir just long enough to barely cook the cabbage, It should retain a little crunch and the sweetness of fresh cabbage.

Preheat the oven to 300 °F.
Heat a grill pan to very hot. Dry the Halibut, brush both sides lightly with oil and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Lay the Halibut on the grill pan, skin side up. Sear on the first side for about 1 1/2 minutes, turn and grill on the skin side for another 1 1/2 minutes.
Transfer the fillet to a lightly buttered baking dish, presentation side up. Put a bit of butter on the fish and set in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to finish cooking. Check with your finger for firmness, or it should flake with a fork.
Plate the slaw and sprinkle with paprika. Place the Halibut on top. Drizzle with the buttery juice from the baking dish.
Serves 2 plus leftover slaw

* I peel the onion and cut it in half, then slice half at a time. a) easier to slice, b) onion rings get tangled up in clumps—cut in half, they don’t.
**A chiffonade is a technique that is often called for with fresh basil. Stack up a half dozen basil leaves, roll tightly into a tube shape, make fine slices across. This gives you very fine stringlets of basil, and doesn’t bruise the leaves. Works fine with cabbage.
***I cut the apple in half and slice very thin, then cut the slices in half.

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