Sunday, May 07, 2006

Burnt hands and Halibut in Sorrel Sauce

You ever have one of those days when it takes at least three repetitions to understand what you are doing wrong? On Friday I found myself in the position of using a cooking technique that I've never done before: poaching fish in a frying pan inside an oven, removing the pan from said oven, removing the fish and then using the poaching liquid to make sauce. I am used to making a sauce seperately and/or cooking the fish on the stovetop. In the course of making the sauce I tried to move the now skin-sizzlingly hot pan around a few times. I grabbed the scorching handle THREE TIMES! It's a wonder I didn't do serious damage to myself. I think I'm paranoid enough not to do it again but sheesh! What does it take to get things in my brain these days?

The recipe itself was nice and basic: poached fish, a white sauce with wine and herbs. I can even claim it as a tribute to this month's blog theme: Eating Locally. The halibut was caught within a few kilometres of here. The sorrel comes from my own garden. It's probably as good as I will get for local food unless I make a seaweed salad or wait to the month's end for salmonberries. I think the fish dish was great but I'm a little disappointed in my sorrel which seems to have lost its sour edge. I'd repeat it with newer shoots a next time. Just remind me to wear heatproof gloves next time.

Halibut in Sorrel Sauce

Serves 4

1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup water
parchment paper
4 halibut fillets (6 oz each)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Bring wine and water to a boil in a large oven-proof skillet that can hold fish fillets in one layer. Turn down the heat so that liquid barely simmers.
Cut a piece of parchment paper into a circle the size of the skillet. Butter one side of parchment paper and set aside.
Season fish fillets with salt and pepper. Place fish in the skillet and dot with butter.
Cover the fish with parchment paper, and tuck the edged of paper into the pan so that they touch the liquid and seal the fish.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. The fish is done when you can separate the flakes with a fork, but just a touch of translucency remains in the middle. Remove the fish to a plate and cover to keep warm.

2 tsp softened butter
2 tsp flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup chopped sorrel

Set the skillet with poaching liquid on the stove top over high heat, and reduce by half (about 5 minutes).
Mash flour and butter together into a smooth paste.
After the liquid has reduced, turn the heat down to low and whisk the butter paste into it until smooth. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the sauce thickens, 1-2 minutes.
Stir in the cream, bring to a boil stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Take off heat, and stir in sorrel.

Pour the sauce over halibut and serve.

For the life of me, I can't remember where I found this recipe but I know it's from the Net. It recommended wild rice and asparagus as side dishes. Can't say I could find any asparagus to use but I did have wild rice on hand. I think it was a good flavour match even if the Frog didn't. I don't think he liked it very much because it was chewy and not starchy. A pity since it tastes so toasty and yummy. But that's okay because there's more for me ;-)


Ruth said...

Nerissa, Sorry to hear about your hand. I burned my thumb today making baked ribs (I'll actually write about it tomorrow) and I burned my thumb in such a stupid way. There's an opening on the seam of my very snazzy oven mitts that I keep meaning to fix - and haven't even though I've burned myself umpteen times. I too would love to learn from my mistakes.

The halibut does sound delicious though. Thanks for sharing.

sher said...

I'm looking at my left hand, where there's a big scab, from burning myself several days ago!!! Well, that recipe sounds perilous--but it was obviously worth it because it looks fabulous.

Nerissa said...

Not that I'm happy or anything but it's nice to know that I'm not the only person crisping themselves in the process of food-making.

ruth: sorry to hear about your thumb. Don't you hate it when you keep forgetting to fix something and it comes back to bite you regularly? Why don't we learn from such events?
--the halibut was lovely. Used up the remains mexican style last night.

sher: Ooh dear. Even a scab? Poor you! Can't say I did that with the fish dish (lost a layer or so and it's all itchy) but I still have a red scar from a week ago. Popping, cooking butter is a b*tch!
--the dish itself, i think, is worth it. I just have to remember not to grab 400 degree panhandles. ;-)

Tania said...

Ouch! I, too, have had such moments. I think we focus so much on what we are doing that simple things -- oh, like hot pans, sizzling heat, the knowledge of what heat does to metal -- just don't register. Still, the way you wrote about it made me smile, and feel better about my own blunders!

Of course, the fish dish sounds delicious, more so for using local ingredients. I love sorrel, but have only had it in soups and salads. A sorrel sauce sounds yummy!

Nerissa said...

tania: it was a nice sauce. I, too, feel a lot better hearing the stories of screw ups and dropsies and burns. I don't wish it on anyone but I don't feel so alone when I hear stories that sound like me. Uniting kitchen klutzes one blog at a time LOL

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