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October 31, 2006

Out to Lunch—October 31, 2006

Going to college about 1,000 miles away from home has taught me to truly appreciate my mother. She is an unbelievably anal woman who can somehow list the dates of each of her three children’s yearly dental appointments off the top of her head. She might be just short of obsessive-compulsive, but I can’t imagine the chaos our family would fall into without her.

Though I hate to admit it, I seem to have inherited this habit of meticulously planning the future from my mother. I regularly update my spreadsheet of classes I plan to take for the next two years, and my planner often has my day scheduled down to the minute.

When I found a recipe for pan-seared swordfish with orange-apricot sauce, I was prepared to follow the recipe diligently with a few specific substitutions, deviating from the instructions as little as possible. While I was trying to follow the directions to a T, my fiancé Greg, more of a shoots-from-the-hip kind of guy, took the basic ingredients of the recipe and started molding his own idea of how he wanted the dish to taste.

In the end, our baked halibut with orange-cranberry sauce turned out to be a delicious product of both planning and imagination. The dish is not a difficult one to prepare, because many of the ingredients, like the dried cranberries, orange juice, and onions, already have a lot of flavor and don’t require too much finessing.

The original recipe called for dried apricots, but I had the cranberries on hand, which turned out marvelously because they were slightly tangy but still very sweet. Dried cherries might also work, but raisins, for example, won’t pack enough punch to really jazz up the mild halibut.

The halibut was supposed to be pan-seared, which just entails dragging the fillets through some flour and then searing them in a little oil. We preferred baking the fish for a lighter, healthier meal.

This recipe turned out as it did largely because of what I had in the kitchen. Adjust it to the things you regularly have on hand. You can choose a different kind of juice, or you can add bits of fresh fruit, like orange or lime, to the sauce. If you don’t feel like washing another pan, make a salsa out of the ingredients by adding a tomato and using less orange juice.

Hearty help: Serve this on pasta with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.The juxtaposition of the sweet sauce and the savory pasta is divine.

The Ingredients

Four halibut fillets (each about a half-inch thick)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1 lime

1/2 medium-sized onion

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

The Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

2. Arrange the fillets in a greased baking dish. Rub a little olive oil, salt, and pepper on each fillet.

3. Zest the lime, then quarter it. Squeeze the juice of 3/4 lime into a bowl. Squeeze the juice of 1/4 lime on the fillets.

4. Bake until the fillets flake when poked with a fork, about 15 minutes.

5. Dice the onion.

6. Chop the dried cranberries into smaller pieces. Each dried cranberry slice should be cut into about three or four pieces.

7. Put a little oil in a pan and put in the onions. Cook until slightly softened, but do not brown. The longer you cook the onions, the sweeter they get. The rest of the sauce is already very sweet, so you don’t need the sweetness of the onion as well.

8. Add the cranberries, lime zest, and the rest of the lime juice to the onions. Add more oil to the pan as needed.

9. Add the orange juice while the pan is still on the flame, but immediately remove from heat after adding the juice. The juice should bubble intensely. For a thicker sauce, add less juice. For a thicker sauce, add more juice.

10. Spoon the sauce onto the fillets and serve.