Halibut and Mushrooms

We’re returning to the Pacific Northwest soon to spend the summer wedged between the Cascades and Puget Sound. In anticipation, I made this very northwest dish featuring fresh caught halibut and mushrooms. Mushroom foraging is a big deal in Washington and Oregon, giving consumers ready access to the freshest, tastiest wild mushrooms, as well as cultivated versions of wild species such as oyster and shiitake. Halibut from the cold waters of the north Pacific and the coast of Alaska is one of the greatest things the sea provides. We are very lucky in Seattle to have such easy access to it.

I love this dish because it uses one pan and easily scales up or down. When cooking for two, I use a 10-inch cast iron pan. To cook for as many as six, it becomes a two pan meal. I cook the mushrooms and onions in cast iron, then transfer them to a sheet pan and place the fish on top.

I was inspired to make this from a Lidia Bastianich recipe that she featured on one of her shows years ago. You can find her recipe here. If you aren’t familiar with Lidia, I encourage you to follow the link. The Italian mother I sometimes wish I had, she is an amazing chef and human being. Her warmth and generosity infuses everything she makes whether it’s dinner or a TV show, and that is why everything she tells us to make is so good.

I love the simplicity of this meal in any season. It’s yet another example of how a few ingredients can produce something wonderful. Always buy the best mushrooms available. It makes a huge difference. Do not substitute white mushrooms. If you cannot find shiitake mushrooms use more creminis or small portabellas, just make sure you remove the gills from the portabellas, otherwise they will create an unappetizing black sauce.

This is best served over scoops of polenta.

When cooking for a crowd I cook polenta ahead, usually in the morning, and pour it into a ceramic baking dish and let it firm up in the fridge. Before serving, I slice it and reheat the slices in the oven or microwave. To serve, I spoon the mushrooms into the middle of a platter, place the fish fillets on top, and shingle the polenta slices around the outside. It’s gorgeous and your guests will think you sweated over this all day long.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 8-10 ounces (about 250g) fresh wild mushrooms — shiiitake, oyster, chanterelle.
  • 4 ounces cremini (125g) (also known as Swiss brown) mushrooms.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • 1 medium onion red or white onion, thinly sliced.
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced.
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
  • freshly ground black pepper.
  • 2 skinless halibut fillets, about 6 ounces each. Equal thickness. 
  • Juice of one lemon.
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) white wine.
  • chopped fresh parsley and tarragon.

Method

  1. Heat oven to 400℉ (200℃).
  2. Remove stems from the mushrooms and slice into chunks. Leave small ones whole.
  3. Heat a lug of olive oil in a cast iron skillet. (About 1 tablespoon).
  4. Add the onion and cook until soft. This may take about 5 minutes or more depending on your stove.
  5. Add the garlic, salt, and grind over some black pepper. Cook one minute.
  6. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until they reduce in size and release their liquids. Add more olive oil if the pan gets dry. Stir occasionally until done. There should be good color on the mushrooms and they will look like they are ready to eat.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in half of the fresh tarragon and parsley.
  8. Pat the halibut fillets dry and season with salt and pepper. Rub half of the lemon juice into the flesh of the fish. Nestle them on top of the mushrooms and onions. 
  9. Pour over remaining lemon  juice and white wine.
  10. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Make Polenta

While the fish bakes make polenta according to package directions. I always stir in grated parmesan and more herbs to the polenta. You can’t use too much parsley and tarragon. They taste great with mushrooms.

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