With such fantastic culinary inspiration, what better reason to kick off dining al fresco on the veranda than my best friends birthday dinner?! Dining outside is one of my favorite things in the world. There is something truly special and romantic about watching the sunset, eating good food, drinking good wine an breathing the fresh summer air (or whatever air it is we breath here in Los Angeles). I just love it. And since Marco is also one of my favorite things (people) in the world, I got this ginger (blonde) bum in the kitchen (um... yeah, just kitchen) and got to work. And I prepared a pretty perfect summer menu, if I do say so myself. We started dinner with a butter lettuce salad with grapefruits, avocado, shallots, and pistachios (Rich hates salad with fruit and he said it was one of his favorite salads EVER). For the main course, I prepared a pan roasted halibut with blue crab, heirloom tomatoes, and horseradish creme fraiche. It was so simple, but yummy! Light, fresh, and full of flavor! And for dessert I made a cantaloupe sorbet (Sorry Rich, he hates melon). But if you love melon, you love sorbet, and you love fun, you can find the recipe HERE!)
Pan Roasted Halibut with Blue Crab, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Horseradish Creme Fraiche
6 filets of halibut, 5-6 ounces each
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
4 tablespoons fresh parley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon shallot, finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup plus one tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound blue crab meat, steamed and picked over***
3/4 cup creme fraiche (sour cream or plain greek yogurt can be substituted if you must)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes
1 bunch of arugula
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
***I could not find blue crab meat anywhere, so I just bought king crab legs and used the meat from those. I am not a big seafood person, so I am not sure what the difference is, but I will tell you, the king crab was delicious!
Also, for three people, I cut this recipe in half.
Season the halibut with the lemon zest, thyme, and 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or over night. If you are familiar with Suzanne Goin's recipes, almost everything she makes needs to be marinated for at least this long, so PLAN AHEAD!
Remove the fish from the refrigerator 15 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
Place the shallot, both vinegars, and salt and pepper into a small bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in 6 tablespoons of olive oil and set aside.
In another small bowl, toss the crab meat (gently) with one tablespoon of creme fraiche, the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley. Taste for balance and seasoning... the crab meat may or may not need to be salted.
Combine the remaining creme fraiche, (yes, in ANOTHER bowl) horseradish, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a little pepper.
Season the fish with salt and pepper. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and carefully lay the fish in the pan. It will smoke, but do not move the fish. Cook 3-4 minutes, until browned. Turn the fish over, lower the heat to medium low, and cook for a few more minutes until just cooked through. Do not overcook the fish. It will continue cooking when you remove it from the heat and will be flakey and opaque in the center when it is done.
While the fish is cooking, arrange the sliced heirloom tomatoes and arugula on large dinner plates. Spoon the vinaigrette over the tomatoes and arugula. Place the halibut in the center, arrange spoonfuls of crab on top of the fish. Dollop each fillet with a heaping spoonful of horseradish creme fraiche (you could seriously put the horseradish creme fraich on a shoe- it is so delicious, so don't be stingy!)
annnnnd HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARCO!