Slow-Cooked Halibut with Warm & Cold Salad | Fresh Tart (Paleo, AIP-adaptable)
This dish of divine represents the beauty of unplanned cooking with friends. You know those meals, usually last-minute, thrown-together affairs – the ones where one friend has some vegetables and another a piece of meat and another some fresh herbs and wine. Spontaneity (and cocktails) draw seemingly disparate elements into a lovely and memorable meal, with everyone agreeing: we HAVE to recreate this.
And of course you never do, or I never do, because half of the deliciousness is in the delight of the collaboration. WE ARE AMAZING.
This dish though, this one was worth recreating. I’d been playing around with slow-cooking halibut in olive oil for the last month or so, and my friend Erik Eastman (he of Easy & Oskey Bitters who not only makes perfect cocktails but is a fabulous and accomplished cook) had been riffing on a warm-cold salad made from greens and herbs freshly picked from his garden.
Photo by Erik Eastman (I so covet that beautiful bowl!)
Both of us are preserved lemon fanatics, so I raided his fridge to finish the soft, soft, pillowy soft fish with some crispy bits of salty zing. (The specks of red in the pics are a few dabs of rhubarb compote I happened to have on hand. Not necessary but pretty.) Erik introduced me to Jamie Oliver’s yogurt jam jar dressing a couple of months ago and frankly, it’s so spectacular on everything, perhaps we’re kidding ourselves thinking the halibut and greens are special. But I don’t think so – I think it’s all incredible, altogether. And so will you. (AIP friends, sub out the yogurt dressing for an olive oil vinaigrette, or experiment with coconut yogurt, and enjoy!)
I tripled the yogurt dressing recipe, in fact, and brought it with me to my aunt Mary and uncle Bruce’s cabin on Green Lake for the weekend. Maybe I love these thrown-together meals so much because my family has been cooking this way for years. I am lucky indeed to have their cabin to steal away to when I need the restorative powers of good food, family time, and being away from the city. I’ve written about Green Lake before given years of Meyer fun on the lake and killiciously buttery walleye feasts from it, gah. There was no walleye this weekend (we need Grandpa Meyer back, sniff) but there was sun and laughing and boat beer (gluten-free for me, that locally-brewed Burning Brothers Pyro is quite tasty) and being rocked into a stupor on the waves of a LOT of speedboats.
In addition to the dressing, I brought a couple of jars of One Tomato, Two Tomato’s perfect quick pickled beets, ginger scallion sauce, rhubarb compote, and roasted cashews. I hadn’t a clue how it might all fit together until…
…Mary and I pulled together a chicken salad for a light dinner on the 4th. After a hearty lunch of steaks and new potato green bean salad, as well as a heavy dose of chips-and-cracker snacking on the boat, this salad tasted like absolute heaven; so good, in fact, that I decided this one was worth sharing too. Vive le spontaneous collaborative cooking!
We watched fireworks from the end of the dock, bathed in such a lovely breeze that I bragged that this would my my first July 4th ever without getting a mosquito bite. It was almost true…except for the one smack on my butt, my punishment for taunting the mosquito gods in July, in Minnesota, like a damn fool.
I reluctantly drove home yesterday, a surprisingly quiet drive on empty roads, under a hazy and moody sky. I listened to country music, which I only do when highway driving, reminiscing about all the time we spent on the road when I was a kid, driving from Lakefield to Clara City to Crookston to Grand Forks and out to Wyoming and Montana. So much time in the car. It kind of wrecked me for long road trips, to be honest, but I enjoy immensely these shorter jaunts and day trips. I’m slowly pulling my thoughts back to the city and creating more healthy food shenanigans for myself and y’all. I hope you had a delightful and relaxing weekend, with plenty of nostalgic food, and only a few mosquito bites.
Thanks to Erik and Mary and all of my friends and family who cook with and teach and inspire me and make my life so utterly delicious. I am beyond grateful.
Slow-Cooked Halibut with Warm & Cold Salad (Paleo, AIP-Adaptable)
With Erik Eastman
Two 4-6 ounce skinned halibut filets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (perhaps more)
3 cups (or handfuls) thinly sliced leafy greens (kale, beet greens, swiss chard, and/or other quick-cooking greens)
1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup (or small handful) freshly picked herb leaves (a combination of your choice of basil, chervil, tarragon, parsley, dill, mint, thyme…)
1 preserved lemon, rind and flesh thinly sliced (seeds discarded)
Jamie Oliver’s yogurt jam jar dressing (recipe below; for AIP, substitute olive oil vinaigrette or make dressing with coconut yogurt)
Pat the halibut filets dry with a paper towel and sprinkle both sides with a bit of salt.
Heat a 12-inch cast iron or other heavy skillet over very low heat. Cooktops vary widely in power, so it’s best to start with the very lowest heat setting. The goal is to cook the fish as slowly as possible, with absolutely no sizzling at all.
When the pan is warmed, add the oil, and after a minute or two, add the fish to the pan. Does it sizzle? The pan is too hot – slide it off heat until the sizzling stops. Cook the fish very gently for 3 minutes or so, then turn over with a spatula. Continue cooking for another few minutes and then make a small cut in the thickest part of one of the filets and check – if it’s mostly cooked through with just a hint of translucence at the center, it’s done. Transfer the fish immediately to a plate and set aside.
Return the pan to the burner and turn flame to medium heat. When pan is hot, add greens and a pinch of salt. Saute, stirring a few times, until greens begin to wilt. Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes more, until greens are just tender. Transfer greens to a bowl.
Return pan to medium heat one last time and add a tablespoon of olive oil if the pan is dry. When the pan is hot, add the preserved lemon and saute, stirring frequently, until the lemon is crispy in spots. Remove from heat.
To finish the dish, set out two shallow serving bowls. Toss greens with herbs and divide between the bowls. Gently break halibut into large pieces and divide between the bowls, nestling fish alongside the greens and herbs. Top halibut with preserved lemon. Lightly drizzle the salad and halibut with yogurt dressing. Finish with a final sprinkle of sea salt to taste (the crunch of Maldon salt is lovely here).
Jamie Oliver’s Jam Jar Yogurt Dressing
Makes about 1/2 cup
1/3 cup grass fed, whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Generous pinch of sea salt
A few turns of freshly ground black pepper
Combine ingredients in a jar, cover, and shake to combine. Adjust seasoning. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Summer Chicken Salad with Arugula, Pickled Beets, Cashews, and Grapes
With Mary Felt
Note: You can assemble the salad without cashews, dressing, or salt up to 4 hours ahead of serving. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature for 15 minutes or so before finishing (with cashews, dressing, and salt) and serving.
4 cups washed and dried arugula
2 cups torn, cooked chicken (from roasted, poached, or rotisserie chicken)
1/2 cup sliced pickled beets (One Tomato, Two Tomato’s are easy and delicious; I used golden in the salad but any color would be lovely)
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
1 cup small red grapes (halved if grapes are large)
1 avocado, sliced thinly
4 radishes, sliced thinly
1/4 cup small basil leaves or sliced basil (can substitute mint or other herbs)
2 tablespoons rhubarb compote, drained (optional)
Jamie Oliver’s Jam Jar Yogurt Dressing (recipe above)
Freshly ground black pepper
Spread arugula leaves on a large platter. Top with layers of evenly scattered chicken, beets, cashews, grapes, avocado, radishes, basil, and rhubarb. Drizzle generously with dressing. Finish with sea salt and pepper. Divide among four salad plates and serve.