Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Necessity is the Mother of Invention or...Use It or Lose It!

Our son, Adam has recently begun working out with and following the nutritional advice of a personal trainer. The two have formed a great relationship and Adam is reaping significant benefits from this challenging pursuit. As a result, my cooking skills are also being tested as I sometimes struggle to develop new and appealing ways to cook poultry and fish, as red meats are currently verboten. In my desire to support Adam's efforts, I’ve also made the switch from cooking with all things ‘white’ such as potatoes, rice, breads, and flours, to more wholesome multigrain or wholewheat ingredients. We’ve both had to make some adjustments but agree that it’s been worth the effort.

I don’t often make fish dishes at home because my husband, Daniel doesn’t like it. (I know, can you imagine ruling out an entire food group? But that’s another post.) So with Adam’s new dietary regimen, I’ve been branching out, and yesterday I purchased about a pound of halibut for our dinner. (Daniel would be having the remaining short ribs I’d made the previous night for company.) Intending to make poached fish tacos in place of fried, I knew this would be a great way to use up the leftover and soon to wind up in the trash romaine lettuce, almost overripe heirloom tomato, and slightly browning avocado I left on the counter after making a turkey sandwich for my lunch. That was until I returned home and discovered someone ate the remaining whole wheat tortillas I thought were still in the fridge. So now what to do with this halibut?

I browsed my bookshelves of cookbooks and reflected on a recipe I read in Nancy Silverton’s A Twist of the Wrist (2007) called “Garbage Salad”, which she created one night after deciding to empty her refrigerator of miscellaneous items. Spying the numerous jars and bottles of asian ingredients on my own refrigerator door, I decided it was time to use them or lose them. Somehow I’d figure out a compelling way to mix all of them into a sweetly sour sauce for our fish, including that stub of fresh ginger wrapped tightly and waiting quietly in the freezer.

Some of the most satisfying meals I’ve made for myself or family have come from a spontaneous refrigerator clearing effort. More often than not, I find myself fondly remembering just such a dish and being unable to reproduce it for lack of written notes. Most frustrating. Here then, as a memory jog for me and hopefully, an inspiration for you, is last night’s dinner. (I regret the absence of a photo but the fish was so good, we scarfed it down before I thought to capture an image!)

2 T dark sesame oil

1 T vegetable or canola oil

1 one pound boneless halibut

sea salt/fresh ground black pepper

Pat the halibut dry with a clean paper towel to facilitate the formation of a crisp crust. Sprinkle very lightly with salt and pepper, and heat the two oils in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. As oils begin to ripple, carefully lay the halibut in the pan, turning once after about 3-4 minutes. When both sides are seared, lower the flame and continue cooking fish, covered with a lid. Meanwhile, mix the following ingredients in a bowl:

2 t fish sauce

scant ¼ cup teriyaki sauce

1 T plum sauce

1 T mirin (Japanese rice flavored wine)

1 T oyster sauce

1 t grated fresh ginger

1 crushed garlic clove

When the fish is just barely opaque in the center, add the sauce to the pan to heat thru. Turn off the heat, place the fish on a bed of brown rice or tangy greens and spoon over some of the sauce. Enjoy!

(Note: We paired our halibut with sweet potato fritters made with wholewheat breadcrumbs, and sautéed French green beans with shallots, mushrooms & sliced almonds.)


  1. Some people in my house are not eating red meat, and eating healthy as Adam is... (JS), but do not like fish so much. However, I LOVE fish and can't wait to try this YUMMY recipe. One of your fans, P

  2. Hey Pam, I would suggest trying this sauce with pounded chicken filets or a roasted or stir-fried green veggie, like green beans, asparagus or broccoli. Enjoy!