For many of your customers, now may be the Lenten season. This can mean a few things for your establishment; it's time to start prepping for any special Easter meals you have planned, and this may be the perfect opportunity to add more fish, seafood or vegetarian dishes to your menus. Some religious affiliations limit the consumption of meat during Lent, especially on Fridays, so a seasonal fish offering may help you draw in more customers. If your restaurant doesn't commonly serve fish or if you are not very familiar with preparing fish, here are some basic tips to consider before diving in.
The type of fish you select can be important for a few reasons. It is a good idea to consider how it will pair with your current menu offerings like side dishes, wines and beers. But the most important reason to be aware of the type of fish used in recipes is because, depending on availability of a particular kind, you can usually substitute another fish from the same category without seeing much difference in flavor. Categorizing fish can be done in a variety of ways but this list from Cooking Light does a nice job of differentiating the basic types.
Dark and oil rich: anchovies, bluefin tuna, grey mullet, herring, mackerel (Atlantic, Boston, or King), Salmon, farmed or King (Chinook), sardines, skipjack tuna
White, lean, and firm: Alaska pollock, catfish, grouper, haddock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, Pacific rockfish, Pacific sand dab & sole, striped bass (wild and hybrid), swordfish
Medium color and oil rich: amberjack, Arctic char, Coho salmon, Hawaiian kampachi, mahimahi, paddlefish, pompano, Sockeye Salmon, wahoo, yellowfin tuna
White, lean, and flaky: Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, branzino, flounder, rainbow smelt, red snapper, tilapia, rainbow trout, weakfish (sea trout), whiting
White, firm, and oil rich: Atlantic shad, albacore tuna, California white sea bass, Chilean sea bass, cobia, lake trout, lake whitefish, Pacific escolar, Pacific sablefish, white sturgeon
Choosing your preparation method also comes with a variety of options. Here are some tips from Bon Appetit for making perfectly crispy fish fillets, which will come in handy with our Pan Seared Halibut recipe below. Remember, fish that's sold with the skin on works best for this technique.
Use a Hot Pan
Use a heavy-bottomed pan and get it very hot by preheating it over medium-high for several minutes. The best type of pan to use is black steel, cast iron or stainless steel. Non-stick will work but it won't get the skin to brown and crisp as well.
Dry the Skin
Since you are most likely not using a non-stick pan, starting with a hot pan and a dried skin will help prevent sticking. Pat the skin with a paper towel before seasoning it. And remember to season the flip side of the fillet as well.
Coat with Oil
Make sure there’s an even coating of oil on the pan. It is best to use a neutral oil variety like Canola. The oil should be just smoking when you add the fish.
Press Once for Crisp Skin
Add the fish to the pan, skin side down. The fillet will contract and curve upwards. Take a flexible spatula, like a fish turner, and press for a few seconds until the fillet flattens out. This ensures the skin remains touching the pan and will give you crisp results.
Flip at the End
This part can be difficult, but trust me you have to just let the fish cook. Don’t mess with it. Don’t flip it back and forth. Only flip it gently once when you can see a nice golden brown color on the edge of the skin. It only needs a couple of minutes on the second side.
Now that we've covered some of the basics of working with fish, let's get cooking. This recipe will work well for all seasons and is full of bright, bold and unique flavors.
Pan Seared Halibut with Herbed Vegetable Ribbons and Couscous
2 c Water
1 c Couscous
1/2 c Sliced Almonds, toasted
1/2 c Sliced Dried Apricots
2 tsp Orange Juice
1 tsp Orange Zest
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 tsp Salt
1/4 c Chopped Parsley
Vegetable Ribbon Ingredients
2 Tbs Extra-virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbs Butter
1 Red Onion, sliced thinly
2 Zucchini, julienned
2 Yellow Squash, julienned
2 Red Peppers, julienned
2 Yellow Peppers, julienned
1/4 c Chopped Mixed Herbs, (chives, thyme, parsley, oregano)
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp White Pepper
1 Tbs Extra-virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp White Pepper
4 to 6 (6-ounce) Pacific Halibut Fillets or Cod
In a 2 quart saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Combine the couscous, with the almonds, apricots, orange juice, orange zest, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Pour the water over the couscous, cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and fluff the couscous with a fork. Add parsley, toss to combine, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover and set aside to keep warm while you prepare the fish and vegetables.
In a 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the butter. When the pan is hot add the red onion, saute for 3 minutes until tender; add the rest of the vegetables. Cook over high heat, tossing frequently, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the herbs, 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Toss to combine then set aside to keep warm while you cook the fish.
Season the halibut fillets on both sides with the remaining salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the halibut fillets and cook until golden brown and fish flakes easily, about 3 minutes on each side.
Serve the fillets over the couscous and spread the vegetables around the plate. Serve immediately. This meal takes about 50 minutes to prepare and serves 4-6.
Recipe courtesy of foodnetwork.com http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/pan-seared-fish-pacific-halibut-or-cod-with-herbed-vegetable-ribbons-and-couscous-recipe.html