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Seared Alaska Halibut Fillets in Escabeche

Seared Alaska Halibut Fillets in EscabecheRecipe by Chef Rick Bayless.

Recipe Ingredients:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 (5 to 6-ounce) boneless, skinless Alaska halibut fillets, about 3/4-inch thick
2 medium white onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
6 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
3 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
6 sprigs fresh marjoram, leaves roughly chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, freshly ground
1 (2-inch) piece of cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water or light fish broth or light chicken broth
Salt, as needed
3 to 4 large fresh or pickled jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut lengthwise into thin strips

Cooking Directions:

  1. Browning the Halibut: In a large (12-inch) heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Pat the halibut fillets dry with paper towels, then lay them in a single, uncrowded layer in the hot oil (you may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan and fillets). Brown richly on one side, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip the fillets over and brown the other side, letting the halibut cook until it flakes under firm pressure, 2 or 3 minutes more. Remove the fillets to a plate and set aside.
  2. For the Escabeche: Reduce the heat under the pan to medium and add the onions, carrots and garlic Stir regularly until the onions are translucent and the carrots almost soft, about 5 minutes Add the bay leaves, thyme, marjoram, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, vinegar and water or broth. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes to bring the flavors together. Taste and season with salt, usually about 3/4 teaspoon, then stir in the jalapeño strips.
  3. To Serve: If you want to serve the dish warm, simply lay the fillets over the simmering escabeche, cover and gently heat for 4 or 5 minutes It's easiest to serve the warm dish by placing a piece of halibut on each of 6 dinner plates, then spooning a portion of the brothy escabeche over each one, arranging the branches of herbs decoratively on top. To serve the dish cool, place a piece of halibut on each of 6 dinner plates and spoon the escabeche over it all. As it cools, the fish and vegetables will absorb much of the liquid.

Makes 4 servings.

For Advance Preparation: When serving the dish warm, you can brown the halibut and simmer the escabeche several hours in advance. Rewarm the halibut and escabeche just before serving. When serving the dish cool, its best served the day it's made, but it will keep a day or two in the refrigerator; the dish is best when allowed to come to room temperature before serving.

Recipe and photograph courtesy of Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.