Halibut Steaks on a Bed of Piperade

Last month while eating in La Régalade St. Honoré, a favorite Parisian bistro of mine, I ordered cod studded with bits of chorizo. When the dish arrived at the table, there in a shallow bowl was a beautifully cooked cod fillet (studded with long strips of chorizo) set atop a colorful piperade, surrounded by a foamy fish broth. Every bite was heaven, so I took notes knowing I’d attempt a version of my own at home.

Piperade is a Basque dish of sautéed bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions scented with Piment de l’Espelette (a spicy red pepper power). For my adaptation, I used red and yellow bell peppers, along with onions and grape tomatoes. Cayenne pepper was a good stand-in for the Espelette powder.

Instead of cod, I found some gorgeous halibut steaks, which I pan-fried, and then arranged on beds of the spicy pepper melange. I eliminated the chorizo to keep the dish more fitting for our family’s post-holiday regime, and omitted the broth. From start to finish the dish took only about 30 minutes!

My spouse–quite the picky eater when it comes to fish– has eagerly given this main course a thumbs up each time I have served it. Add a salad of baby romaine lettuce  tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing and some good crusty peasant bread, and you’ll have a quick, easy, and delectable menu.

3 tablespoons olive oil plus more if needed
1 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup red bell pepper cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2/3 cup yellow bell pepper cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise, but not seeded

4 halibut steaks, 7 to 8 ounces each and 1-inch thick (See note.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 2 tablespoons olive oil for sautéing the halibut
4 teaspoons white wine
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley

1. For piperade, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy skillet set over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the onion and the red and yellow bell peppers. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Then add the garlic, cayenne pepper, and salt, and stir and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, and stir and cook until tomatoes are warm, but not collapsing, about 1 1/2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. (Piperade can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat until hot, 3 to 4 minutes.) Remove the piperade to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm while you sauté the fish.

2.Pat the halibut steaks dry with paper towels, and then season generously on both sides with salt and pepper. In the same skillet in which the piperade was cooked, heat 2 tablespoons oil or enough to cover the bottom of the pan lightly over medium heat. When oil is quite hot, add the fish and sauté until golden on the under side, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook until golden on the other side and flesh is opaque and flaky, 4 to 5 minutes more.

3. To serve, divide the piperade among 4 shallow bowls and top each portion with a halibut steak. Drizzle each steak with 1 teaspoon white wine and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, and sprinkle with some parsley. Serves 4.

Note: Halibut steaks can vary in size. If you can’t find 4 steaks that are around 7 to 8 ounces, you can use 2 steaks that weigh about a pound each. You’ll have to divide each into two portions using scissors or a sharp knife. Cooking time should be the same. You can substitute other firm white fish for this recipe. I’ve tried it with Chilean Sea Bass with good results. Just make certain that whatever fish you use is not on the endangered list.

© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2012

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