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.
Combine paprika, thyme, garlic and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over the fish.
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.