One of the first restaurants I visited in Portland, Oregon, when I was attending Western Culinary was Higgins.
There, I fell in love with Chilean sea bass–until I learned it was overfished; now I rarely eat it unless it is sustainably raised and harvested.
Here is a preparation for fish that is similar to how it was made at Higgins: simply seasoned, seared, and served over a bed of beans and vegetables.
Seared Fish with Beans and Braised Vegetables
2 pounds fish (halibut, salmon or sustainable seabass work well)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 bulb fennel, diced
1 medium sweet potato, diced (you may also use carrots or tomatoes)
1/2 cup dried cannelini beans cooked in water with rosemary and bay leaves according to package instructions
Note: You can substitute a 16-ounce can of beans and skip this step if you prefer.
32 ounces vegetable broth
1 cup pinot gris (or other dry white wine)
Freshly ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
To cook the fish:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut fish into your desired portion size. Note: If using salmon, remove the pin bones or ask the fish monger to do so. An average serving is the size of a deck of cards, but for active eaters with big appetites (runners and rowers, for example), I usually make portions about the size of two card decks placed end to end. This varies depending on the thickness of the fish–or how far I’ve run that day.
Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil. Heat until bubbles subside, but before the butter starts to brown. Place fish in the pan skin side up and sear for 3-4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the fish over, placing it skin side down, and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Depending on the thickness of the fish, you may choose to finish cooking it in the pre-heated oven until desired doneness is reached. (I prefer salmon served medium rare and other fish served medium.)
To prepare the vegetables:
Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, onions and fennel. Sauté 5 minutes. Add sweet potato, and sauté another 3-5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with wine, and simmer 5 minutes more. Then add beans and broth and simmer until potatoes are cooked through. Season with thyme, salt and pepper.
Tina’s Tip: Buy low-sodium broth. That way you have more control over the salt content and final flavor of your culinary creations. Or if you have time, make home-made stock.