I was digging around some old photographs yesterday and came across a photo of a family halibut fishing trip from 3 years ago. It was the first time I had ever gone fishing, unless you count the time at Montreal’s Atwater Market when I was really young, where I hooked a trout from a tank with a toy rod. The halibut experience was different, needless to say, and more thrilling than a plastic pool of water and a Bugs Bunny reel. I had never seen a halibut outside of a grocery seafood section, so was surprised and a little mortified when a massive, prehistoric-looking beast latched onto our line off of Vancouver Island. I felt like Quint from Jaws on board the Orca and the fish’s violent thrashing on the surface had me jokingly humming the dramatic “dah duh, dah duh,” much to the annoyance of others. It took two grown men (while I watched) to slowly reel the creature aboard.
From that fishing expedition I had nearly a year’s worth of frozen halibut. After six months, my appreciation for this “chicken of the sea” was waning from over-indulgance, so I started giving some away to friends or bringing large slabs of fish to BBQs. I haven’t caught any fish since, but my appreciation for halibut has been renewed.
Inspired by some delicious west coast catering from Bruce’s Kitchen restaurant at a Saltspring Island wedding last weekend, I decided to make this halibut dish served on a bed of kale, apples and polenta. I only recently discovered the wonders of kale and polenta, but plan to use these more regularly as a healthy and hearty side dish. Polenta is not fussy at all to make and is a nice replacement for the traditional mashed potato side dish.
Preparation and cook time: 40 minutes
1 cup yellow cornmeal (I used finely ground cornmeal, instead of the coarser variety)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
Sauteed Kale with Apples:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 bunches of kale, washed, ribs removed and coarsely chopped (don’t worry about drying the leaves after washing, as the clinging water helps steam the kale while cooking)
1/3 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp minced red onion
1/2 cup water
1 Granny Smith apple, peels on and sliced
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp old-syle mustard (with the grains)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt and ground pepper
4 x 8 oz halibut fillets about an inch and a half thick, skinned (haddock would also work)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
8 slices of thinly sliced bacon or pancetta
For the polenta:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Whisk in the salt, thyme and cornmeal. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring every few minutes with a whisk until the cornmeal becomes tender and soft and absorbs the liquid (about 25 minutes).
For the Sauteed kale with apples:
1. Heat the oil and butter in a large soup pot or dutch oven. Add the kale and onions and stir together, tossing with the oil for about 2 minutes.
2. Add the water then cover and continue cooking for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chopped apples, cover and cook for 8 more minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl mix together the vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Add the mixture to the cooking kale at the end and then increase the heat to high for 3 minutes, uncovered, until the remaining liquid disappears.
1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Season the halibut fillets with pepper, finely chopped rosemary, lemon juice and zest. Tightly wrap 2 slices of bacon around each fillet, making sure to overlap each slice to keep them together. Leave the ends of the fillet bare.
3. In a frying pan on medium-high heat, cook the fish on one side for 5 minutes, until the fish is cooked about half way through. Remove with spatula and place on a baking sheet, on the top rack in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the fish is fully cooked. Don’t overcook or the fish will become dry.
Serve the fish warm, drizzled with freshly squeezed lemon and served atop the kale and polenta.