Halibut Season

One of the things I love about living in the Pacific Northwest is the food. From beautiful cherries in summer to an array of wild mushrooms in the fall, from asparagus from eastern Washington to artisanal cheese from Vashon Island, we are fortunate to benefit from the abundance of both the maritime climes and arid interior.  Though I always enjoyed seafood before, one of my favorite aspects of our local food scene is the fish. While salmon gets the lion’s share of attention, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Whether sipping vihno verde and cracking Dungeness crab, or sopping up the sauce of a bowl of Penn Cove mussels, there is always something to pique your interest here. But with all the variety, perhaps my favorite is Halibut. Though not the most comely fish, it’s hard to beat the delicate flavor of its snowy-white flesh. I’ll eat halibut in almost any incarnation, but I love the simplicity of this dish. The simple preparation amplifies the best qualities of the few ingredients in this recipe. It’s a bit of a splurge but well worth it.

Casserole-Baked Halibut with Leeks and Carrots

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound carrots cut into 4-by-1/2-inch sticks
6 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced crosswise
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
7 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
Four 6-ounce  halibut fillets, about 1 inch thick

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large, deep, ovenproof skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the carrots and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water, cover and cook over moderate heat until the carrots are crisp-tender, 5 minutes. Add the leeks and another 1/2 cup of water, then cover and cook, until the leeks begin to soften, 5 minutes. Season the carrots and leeks with salt and white pepper and add the thyme and bay leaves.

Season the fish with salt and pepper and arrange on top of the vegetables. Drizzle the fish with 2 tablespoons of oil. Cover the fish with parchment paper and close the skillet with a heavy lid.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake the fish for 15 minutes, or until just cooked through. Discard the herbs. Transfer the fish to pasta dish or bowls, spoon the vegetables and juices alongside and serve right away.

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