Halibut with Crispy Potatoes, Risotto and Tarragon Sauce

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I welcomed 2014 in an unceremonious fashion: on the couch in my jammies, sipping camomile tea, watching the 1978 classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Just me and my Tylenol.


The movie was fitting because two days earlier I had indeed been taken over – absolutely tackled – by something diabolical. Finally, feeling better on New Year’s Day (and having had nothing but grits and crackers for two days), I’m celebrating by making some real food.

This flakey fish is made crisp with a light coating of fried potatoes. The risotto is creamy and full; the aroma of the tarragon sauce is enticing.  The mix of textures (crispy potato against the smooth risotto) makes each bite fabulous.

This French recipe comes from Carlos’s Restaurant in Highland Park, Chicago. It calls for John Dory but any firm white fish will do. I found a nice halibut today along with a beautiful cabbage that you’ll be seeing more of in a couple days…

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Start the risotto first.

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup uncooked arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp Mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup oven dried tomatoes (I used sun-dried)
  • 4 arugula leaves
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 1 shallot, chopped

Heat a skillet and saute the onion until transparent. Add the rice and stir until just browned and coated with oil. Add the wine and cook down. Add the stock about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Let the stock be absorbed each time before adding more.

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“Stirring constantly”, in this case, means keep a good eye on it but you can do other things, too. Like prep fish…

Brush the fish with beaten egg. The recipe says to cut a potato into 1/2″, very thin squares but I kind of wanted a “fish scale look” so I did things differently. This isn’t baking, after all, so we can play a bit more. Lay the thin potato slices on the fish and brush again with beaten egg. You’ll want them to stick.

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Stir the risotto! Stir the risotto! 

Once all the stock is absorbed and the risotto is creamy, add the butter and cheese. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover to keep warm.

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Heat about 1-2 tbsp of oil in a large non-stick pan on med-high. I used 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 canola oil. Once the oil is hot, gently and ever so carefully place the fish (potato-side down) in the pan. Cook until crispy, but don’t flip it until it’s really ready. You can check the thick end of the fish to watch the color change as it cooks. When the color is white (or “done”) about 3/4 of the way up the fish, flip it. It usually takes about 3 minutes for an 8 oz piece, then 1-2 min on the other side, depending on thickness.

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While the fish is cooking, quickly gather your sauce ingredients.

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Tarragon Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp snipped tarragon
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp chopped chives
  • 1/2 small shallot, finely chopped

Remove the fish from the pan and drain the excess oil. In the same pan, melt and lightly brown the butter. Once browned, toss in the other ingredients and stir to combine.

To serve, use a ring mold to form the risotto and place the fish on top. Drizzle with  tarragon sauce. Chopped carrots make a nice compliment, as do olives and a clean Chablis.

Wishing you health, great food and the good sense to appreciate both. Happy New Year!

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