Halibut with Asparagus in Brown Butter Balsamic Vinaigrette

I've been holding on to this one for a while, trying to think of a little story to tell with it.  So I hopped over to the Top Chef page, hoping for some inspiration.  and when i went to look at the original recipe, i realized that maybe now is when we should talk photography...

Why now?  Well, because for one of the first times in my life, i think my picture is better than the supposed professional one...

About a year ago, Jordan and i decided to 'pre-spend' some wedding gifts and buy ourselves a fancy new camera...  Jordan wanted it for our honeymoon, I mostly just wanted it for this blog... We wavered back and forth between different cameras, eventually ending on the Nikon D5000. And, of course, it showed up and we both said "well now what?"

Neither of us had a clue what to do with the thing and sure, we took it to paris and played with it and have thousands of pictures to show for it, but we still didnt really understand it.  At all.

So for Jordan's birthday, i bought him a class on how to use that camera - Take Your Camera Off Program Mode, Part I with Okello Dunkley.  I sent him with very specific instructions...  find out how to take pictures of food and also how to make a cool picture with an out-of-focus background...

And that Jordan, he's a keeper - he came back with both pieces of information...  Since we are talking food here, lets focus on that (though, turns out the info was largely the same)  He said we needed to spend $ and get a Nikon 50mm lens, use our tripod and open the aperture way up to allow the background to 'fade away'...  While i dont think i can explain the science of it, i can tell you that the good pictures you've occasionally* seen around here recently are a result of what he learned.  Birthday present SUCCESS!

This halibut might be my most beautiful example of those lessons...  the original picture just isnt so pretty and i dont know that it ever would have piqued my curiosity...   Our picture?   I think it makes the halibut and asparagus both look yummy and intriguing...


Something food-related worth noting - this was our first successful balsamic reduction.  Both Jordan and I have tried in the past and both of us have failed...  Traci used this for a quickfire challenge - explain how to cook something without seeing the other person - because it was simple and, by her accounts, one of the first sauces she teaches to anyone who comes to work for her...  I figured if she could explain it through a wall and taught it to everyone who walked through her kitchen doors, that maybe it would even be Kristen & Jordan-proof...  and it was - and if we could make it, i think its safe to say that pretty much anyone can! 

*sadly i'm sometimes too lazy to get out the good camera and tripod and well, then you get the regular old boring ugly pictures...  so sorry...

Halibut with Asparagus in Brown Butter Balsamic Vinaigrette
courtesy of Traci Des Jardin on Top Chef Masters
Click here to import recipe directly into Pepperplate

1-2 tbsp olive oil
8 spears of asparagus

2 halibut filets, skin removed

~2 tbsp butter
4 shallots, minced
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped


Heat ~ 1tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat and saute asparagus for 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus - should still be a bit crisp.  Set aside

Add a bit more olive oil to the pan, give it a minute to come up to temperature and saute the fish for a couple of minutes on each side until cooked through.  (Traci said 1.5 mins per side, but i think it took us a bit longer...)  Set aside.

Remove pan from heat.  Lower heat to medium-low.  Add butter to the pan & return it to the heat.  Allow it to brown.  If you have never browned butter before the basic gist is this:  let it melt and let it sit in the pan.  dont stir it.  it will start to foam up.  this is a good thing.  Once that happens, start swirling the pan or stirring.  this will cause the foam to 'collapse' and little tiny brown bits will float to the bottom of the pan.  this will be wildly difficult to see if you are using a non-stick pan, so you'll have to rely on the foaming and the scent, which will be slightly nutty.  Just as the butter has begun to brown, add the shallots and allow them to soften a bit - about 3 minutes.

Raise heat slightly and add in the balsamic.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil.  Add a bit of water (start with a tablespoon or two) and whisk to emulsify.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper, in accordance with your personal taste (we like both!).  Add parsley and stir to incorporate.  Allow to cook for a few minutes.  Sauce will begin to thicken (aka reduce).  Once it has reduced a bit, remove from heat.

Place 4 stalks of asparagus on each plate, top with one piece of halibut and spoon the balsamic sauce over top and serve.

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