This is about last night’s dinner, but first, a story:
Twenty four years ago I was in Paris on a business trip. My daughter came along with me on this one because she was only 14 and on her Winter Break from high school. My client, the CEO of a growing French retail clothing chain, had a daughter of similar age and invited mine to stay with them for several days.
As you know I often do foodie things when I travel. This time it was a visit to Dehilleran, the ne plus ultra cookware store, between the Hotel de Ville and Le Palais Royal part of Paris. I was in heaven, shopping for pots, pans, and accessories. One of the items I bought was a very small, relatively heavy (weighs 2.2 lbs.) copper pot with a lid — one which remains one of my favorite pots to this day.
As an aside, when I went to the store counter to check out, I saw another sales slip in progress, and the name “Patricia Wells” on the slip. Turning around, I looked and saw her (one of my favorite food writers, even then). She was with her good friend, Johanne Killeen, co-owner of Al Forno, a great restaurant in Providence, RI, and that is how I met them both.
But I digress. Last night I took the greatest advantage of this well-made pot to make one of the best fish dishes I ever had. Barbara had said she wanted fish for dinner last night, so I stopped at The Quarterdeck to buy a small piece for her. They also had some perfectly lovely small halibut steaks, so I bought 1/3 lb. piece for me. When I got home, I researched for recipes for poaching halibut in olive oil, and I found this one by Mario Batali:
Many years ago I had tried a Mark Bittman recipe from the NY Times for poaching a chunk of tuna and aromatic vegetables in olive oil, and it was marvelous — though I hadn’t done it since then. So last night I sliced a lemon, rinsed and chopped some salted capers, and pulled out my 5-liter tin of virgin olive oil, purchased in Puglia last Spring. The recipe is amazingly simple, and it only took an hour in a 250º oven.
That provided me plenty of time for the rest of the meal:
- cut carrots and celery into batons, then poach with sliced onion and parsley until tender
- thinly slice a large leek in long strips, and cook slowly with olive oil, salt and pepper in a covered copper sautéuse until extremely tender
- chop and fry Shiitake mushrooms, then added diced onion and garlic, continuing to sauté; add leftover cooked Italian barley and leftover brown rice; cook with some stock until nice and tender
- spread the mushroom-grain mixture in a gratin pan and bake in the oven, right next to the copper pot with the halibut
- steam a bunch of golden beets, then clean and peel them
- finally, take out the salmon fillet, slat and pepper lightly, and braise atop the carrots and celery, in their final stages of cooking.
- remove the halibut with lemons, capers and parsley, from the pot and plate. A taste confirmed incredibly delicate, smooth texture and flavors
- finish the mushroom/grain gratin under the broiler, to crisp it a bit
- serve the fishes with accompaniments and a glass of Sorriso di Cielo, a Malvasia from Italy — perfetto!