Pan-Seared Halibut & Tomato Vinaigrette
It’s funny how anything pan-seared sounds fancy, and we don’t really think of halibut, or any seafood outside of fish sticks, as a convenience food — but pan-searing a halibut steak takes all of 10 minutes. This is a quick, weeknight dinner. It also lives up to its pan-seared reputation: Its heirloom tomatoes and aromatics look bright and cheerful scattered over the golden fish, and they’re full of flavor. Pretty fancy, we’d say.
We try to use a variety of heirloom tomatoes, not only for the mix of sunny yellows, fiery reds, and deep purples, but also for the range of bright, sweet, and herbaceous. They’re marinated in a punchy vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, shallots, garlic, and herbs. There’s also a fair amount of fennel in the vinaigrette, and we like how ultra-fresh it makes the tomatoes taste. The tomatoes are the perfect, no-cook side for the halibut, and if you know dinner is going to be a race, you can always make them ahead.
Cooking the fish is super easy and quick, but we do want to talk about the cooking method. The halibut starts in sizzling hot olive oil, but halfway through the cooking, we melt a couple tablespoons of sweet cream butter in the pan and baste the fish with it. Doing so ensures that the fish cooks evenly from above and below, that it develops a nice crust — and that it has a wonderful, buttery flavor.
The fish comes out of the pan very flaky with a crispy, golden brown exterior. Spoon the tomatoes and all their juices over it and take a bite: you get the fish’s subtly sweet brine, the butter, a hit of sweet-tart vinegar, chives, and parsley — and then the warmth of the garlic and a fresh, fennel-y finish. Too much deconstruction? We’ll just say it’s light and summery and very fresh.
If you’re looking for a more filling meal, toss a handful of peppery arugula in with the tomatoes and serve it all with some crusty bread. The bread will be great for sopping up those tomato and vinaigrette juices.
1 ½ lbs heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved
2 Tbsp minced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp minced Gelson’s organic fresh chives
1 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tsp ground fennel seeds, divided
½ tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
4 6-oz skinless halibut fillets
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
To make the tomato vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes and their juices with the shallots, garlic, chives, parsley, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon of the ground fennel. Season with salt and pepper, stir to combine, and set aside.
To make the halibut: In a small bowl, mix the remaining ¾ teaspoon of fennel, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture all over the fish.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Add the halibut and cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.
Flip the fillets and add the butter to the skillet. Spoon the butter over the fillets as they cook, about 2 minutes longer.
Transfer the halibut to plates, spoon the tomato vinaigrette on top, and serve.
Recipe adapted from: Food and Wine