I love the fresh, clean taste of halibut-almost as much as I love roasted peppers. In this quick preparation, they complement each other in both flavor and appearance: a bold, brilliant sauce drizzled over tender, delicate white fish. I prefer Alaskan halibut, available fresh in spring and summer, because it's oilier, and therefore moister, than other halibut, but you can substitute any firm white fish. The simple sauce is technically called a coulis (pronounced coo-lee). I have included a quick and easy variation using bottled peppers for when time is short. Drizzle coulis from a plastic squeeze bottle or spoon directly onto each piece of fish before serving. If you have leftover coulis, combine it with a little mayonnaise, sour cream, or crème fraîche and use as a sandwich spread or vegetable dip. It keeps for several days in the refrigerator.
Smell your peeled garlic before adding it to the food processor for the coulis. If it seems particularly "hot" or sharp, poach it briefly to take away the sting: Place in a small saucepan, cover with about 1 inch water, and simmer for 5 minutes.
For simplicity and even cooking, buy skinless halibut fillets of the same thickness. If only halibut steaks are available, cook them with the skin on and peel it off after you transfer the steaks to the plates. To remove the skin from raw, skin-on fillets, place the fish skin side down on a cutting board. Grab a corner of the skin and tuck the center of the blade of a fillet or carving knife between the skin and flesh at the corner you're holding (see illustration in the book). Continue holding the corner of the skin with one hand as you slide the blade, parallel to the board, between the skin and flesh, separating the fish from the skin as you push the knife away from you. As you do so, press the blade down towards the skin, rather than upwards towards the flesh.
To imbue the fish with the sweet flavor of garlic without the risk of fresh garlic burning under the intense heat of the broiler, use garlic-flavored olive oil or extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of granulated garlic powder. To prevent spoilage, store garlic-flavored oil in the refrigerator after opening. If the oil solidifies when chilled, remove it from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before using to restore it to pouring consistency.
The generally accepted (for healthy adults) range of internal doneness temperatures for fish is between 120 and 135 degrees F. Non-oily fish such as albacore tuna and halibut should be cooked to the lower end of this range to preserve succulence. Swordfish and other firm but oily fish can withstand temperatures at the higher end of this range.
2 red bell peppers, about 5 ounces each
1 clove garlic, green germ removed if present
Kosher salt and fine, freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons bold-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
4 skinless halibut fillets or steaks of uniform thickness,
6 ounces each, at room temperature
Garlic-flavored oil or extra-virgin olive oil
and granulated garlic powder
Kosher salt and fine, freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1. Prepare the coulis: Position the oven rack 4 inches below the broiler element and preheat the broiler. Cut off the top and bottom ends of each bell pepper and reserve for another use. Cut each pepper lengthwise into 4 pieces and remove the ribs and seeds. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the peppers, skin side up, on the pan. Broil with the oven door open a few inches if possible. Watch carefully, turning the pan to char the skins evenly. When the skins are blistered and charred, after about 3 minutes, transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let them steam until cool enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Leave the broiler on for the fish, but close the oven door. Peel off the pepper skins; if necessary use a paring knife to scrape off charred bits. Work over a bowl to catch any juices released from the peppers as you peel them.
2. Mince the garlic in a food processor. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl and mince again. Scrape the bowl again and add the roasted peppers and any pepper juices. Process until the peppers are puréed. Scrape the bowl and sprinkle the purée lightly with salt and pepper. With the motor running, drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Taste and add more salt and olive oil if necessary to achieve a rich-tasting, very smooth purée. Transfer to a bowl.
3. Prepare the fish: For easy cleanup, coat both parts of a broiler pan with vegetable oil spray. Place the fish pieces on the broiler pan with at least 1 inch between them to prevent steaming (steam impedes caramelization). Brush the tops of the fillets with garlic-flavored oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and with a few red pepper flakes, if using.
4. Place the fish under the broiler element and broil, with the oven door open a few inches if possible, for 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the broiler, turn the fish, and brush the tops with the garlic-flavored oil. Season with salt, pepper, and a few red pepper flakes. Broil for 4 minutes. Test the fish for doneness by inserting the tip of a paring knife into the center to see if the fish separates easily; if not, return to the oven and cook until done. Continue to test at 1-minute intervals.
5. Place a little coulis on the bottom of each plate, place a piece of fish on top, and drizzle the top of the fish with coulis in a random pattern. Serve any remaining coulis in a bowl on the side.
Cooking School Secrets for Real-World Cooks
Tips, Techniques, Shortcuts, Sources, Hints, and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, Plus 100 Sure-Fire Recipes to Make You a Better Cook
by Linda Carucci
Paperback; 392 pages; $22.95
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created February 2006
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