Thursday, April 23, 2009

Marc Vetri's Porcini Crusted Halibut & Blackberry Sauce

I noticed a lone little baggie of dried porcini mushrooms sitting in the far back of the pantry last week and decided that today was the day that I'd do something other than re-hydrate and give to Elizabeth to add to one of her risottos. Actually she was working late that night and I don't have what it takes to make a risotto as good as hers

Grabbing my latest library loaned cookbook, Marc Vetri's Il Viaggio, I spotted a recipe that used porcinis and unusual sounding that I had to try it.

Porcini-Crusted Halibut & Blueberry Sauce (link to recipe)

Although this blueberry-'shroom combo may not be so odd after all...somebody I met at a party told me that they saw a mushroom & blueberry risotto on a local menu recently. We also sampled a blueberry & basil compound butter that was savory and delicious, another unexpected blueberry matchup that works.

Looking in the fridge, we spied our blueberry supply was gone...we used blackberries instead. I'm thinking the subtler blueberry would play even better with the porcini crust (which, by the way, is very delicate, so once you get the fish in the pan, be gentle!).

OK, I knew there was no way we were going to have time to really give it that fussy-clean look on a Wednesday night after we both got home from work late, but I still wanted to give the dish a partner to the dance that wasn't plain.

Here's a Yukon Gold I halved then punched out with a small biscuit cutter, slicing the cylinders & rings into coins. Put the potatoes in a thin layer of olive oil in a hot pan, let them begin to brown , then salt & pepper, flip, then throw in 1/2 cup of water to make an instant pillar of steam.

This may be common knowledge around the rest of the culinary world, but I just figured out that if you shut your lid on tight when you dump the water, the steam action will cook the potatoes through before they burn to a crisp. When you're about ready to pull the fish or whatever meat you've got on, pull the lid off the potatoes and let the steam cook're left with seared potatoes that are cooked through.

We didn't have blueberries laying around for the sauce so we used blackberries and blood oranges...I think it ended up looking like a fish that wanted to be a bloody rare steak, but it tasted alot better than it looked. The oil & mushroom-dust crust were aromatic and deep, while the berry helped to brighten up and keep moist the meatier halibut...the white-fleshed fish soaked up the flavor beneath the browned crust.

We served this with a warm spinach salad & citrus-bacon vinaigrette; I bought some Pink Navel oranges from WFM that had the firmness of a grapefruit, which made for perfect supremes, but had the seedless & juicy character of the navel orange.


  1. That turned out absolutely gorgeous, and sounds perfect for 90+ degree weather - very summery :-)

  2. Thanks Holly,

    In hindsight I would've cut the halibut into two small pieces because that crust will crumble off from mishandling...

    ...having two small fillets would've minimized the crust-loss because let's face it, that is the star of this show.

  3. That looks great. I've been cooking my way through the Vetri book too. Thanks for the tip on steam-cooking potatoes -- I didn't know about that either!

  4. That looks damn tasty Chris.