Thai-Style Halibut

Everyone had a goldfish or two as a kid, right? Well we had goldfish too, but could never seem to keep them alive in the living room aquarium. One summer my brother won big at the Home and School Fair’s ping pong toss, and came home with about a dozen tiny, vulnerable goldfish. Seriously, these babies had about a 12-hour shelf life. They were the kind of goldfish that every parent loathes, because they know they’re a one-way ticket to a kid’s first talk about death and dying and do animals go to heaven. They really only have one direction they’re headed, and that’s straight to a ceremonial flushing.

Instead of taking up residence in the TV room death tank, these fish somehow ended up in one of the water troughs in the cow field. The huge concrete vessel was about three feet tall, 20 feet long, and 2 feet deep, and though it had fresh water constantly filtering through it, the sides were lush with lime green algae. Everyone anticipated the same fate the gold fish would face indoors, but apparently this is the ideal environment for cheap goldfish.

These puppies thrived!

They ate, and grew (some of them to a behemoth 5 or 6 inches), and darted back and forth across this water trough all summer long. My brother had names for all of them – like Speedy Gonzales and Snowy. He had a net that he’d use to catch them so he could pet them. (Little known fact, goldfish LOVE being petted.) He’d spend hours on end standing on the edge of the trough, his dog by his side, playing with the fish. And then winter came.

It was okay; these fish had a good, long life – far longer than the average Home and School Fair goldfish. Image our shock and surprise in the spring when the water thawed and then came right back to life. It was some serious cryogenics. They had babies. And more babies. This little circle of life went on for years, sadly until one day the water trough was inadvertently emptied. And that, unfortunately (and abruptly), is where the story ends.

The mutant goldfish were pretty much the extent of our “fish” experience as kids. SUE! did occasionally cook up fried flounder when the Jersey Shore fishing excursions were successful. But other than that, I don’t remember eating a ton of fish. In college I tried cooking fish once or twice and was practically run out of my apartment by my roommates because of the smell. (The fish in question was sourced from a “questionable” grocery store that accepted our meal plan card, and trash wasn’t always promptly removed…) Even now, the majority of the fish I eat is raw.

But there’s just no excuse now that we live in the seafood stronghold that is Seattle. Even the grocery store carries an exemplary selection – it’s really criminal not to take advantage of it and work fish into the regular recipe repertoire.

So the point is, I’m trying to cook more fish. And this is my latest: Thai-Style Halibut with Coconut-Curry Broth. It’s a wonderfully light dish that’s flavorful and satiating. The sauce compliments the meatiness of the fish without smothering it in a thick mystery sauce, and the scallions lend a nice crunch. Served with brown rice and steamed spinach, it’s a noteworthy addition to the week night rotation. Best of all, it cooks up in less time than it takes to make the brown rice.

A quick note about halibut. This fish is a distant relative of the flounder, so you can expect the same dense, flaky texture – only thicker. Halibut has been on and off the list of ocean-friendly seafood. It’s a slowly maturing fish and is susceptible to over-fishing. Though as of July 2009, halibut is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch’s Best Choices list, so environmentally-minded folks can eat Pacific Halibut occasionally without worry. If you’d like to see the list of ocean-friendly seafood selections for your area, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium website and download one of their pocket-sized regional guides. Enjoy!

Thai-Style Halibut with Coconut-Curry Broth

Click here to print this recipe.
Adapted from “The Food You Crave” by Ellie Krieger
Serves: 2
Time: 30 – 40 minutes

1 teaspoons coconut oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup light unsweetened coconut milk
Two 5-ounce Halibut filets
5 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 5 cups lightly packed)
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 scallion, light and dark green parts only, sliced in rounds
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook the brown rice according to the package instructions.

Rinse the spinach and place in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover tightly and microwave for 2 minutes or until the spinach is cooked.

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally until they begin to brown, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the broth, coconut milk, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and simmer to reduce slightly, about 5 minutes.

Rinse and pat dry the halibut filets, season with kosher salt, and arrange in the saute pan. Spoon the sauce over the fish. Cover and cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 7 minutes.

Divide the spinach and rice between two shallow bowls. Place a fish filet on top of each.

Stir the cilantro, scallions, and lime juice into the broth. Simmer to reduce until it coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

Coconut milk can be found in the international aisle of most grocery stores in the asian section. Be sure to get “unsweetened.” Curry powder can be found in the spice aisle.

This recipe doubles nicely.

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Comments: 2

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    hey there –

    alton brown is in town on friday at 3rd place books. 2 tickets are available with the purchase of his book. just thought you might like to know.


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