Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Quick & Healthy: A Little Food with Your Wine?

I would like to say I came up with this meal because I was trying to eat healthfully, but my real motivation was booze.

Mike and I frequent a fantastic wine shop in Fort Lauderdale that hosts free tastings nearly every weekend. At a recent Australia tasting, along with the requisite Shiraz and GSM, we picked up a bottle of Kangarilla Road Viognier. Since the first time I tried this varietal, I perk up every time I see it on a menu or in a shop. Sadly, there is not an exceptionally wide selection of this wine in the marketplace. The closest thing I can compare it to is a Gerwurtztraminer because of its aromatic quality. Those aromas are usually more fruity and herbal than floral, however. Good Viognier also has the acid structure to back up its heady nose and complement foods like white fish, shrimp, coconut mussels, or even a roast chicken with some citrus.

I spent a few days thinking about a great pairing for this bottle, and citrus was the element that I wanted to focus on. I decide to do a firm white fish with a simple pan sauce based on freshly squeezed orange juice. A thick halibut fillet worked well for my favorite cooking method, searing in a hot skillet and finishing in the oven. I had a foil-lined baking sheet in the pre-heated oven waiting for the fish so that I could use the hot skillet to make my pan sauce. The couscous can be done in minutes either while the fish is cooking or before. Just leave it steaming away in its covered pot until you are ready to eat. The fennel and shallot create a sweet, herbaceously fragrant base that marries perfectly with the orange sections and the citrus-y fish.

And there you have it. Quick, healthy and totally inspired by some lovely, lovely booze.

Fish with Citrus Sauce
Serves 2

½ tblsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¾ to1 lb. halibut fillet (or other firm white fish)
¼ c. chicken broth
1/3 c. freshly squeezed orange juice (or substitute store-bought)
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
Pat of unsalted butter (I used a bit less than ½ tblsp.)
1 tblsp. cilantro, chopped

Place a foil-lined baking sheet in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a cast iron or nonstick skillet to medium high. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. When oil is very hot, add the fish. Sear for 2 minutes on the first side, then turn and cook for 1 additional minute, or until browned. Transfer the fish to the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes (for a very thick fillet) or until fish is opaque in the thickest part.

While fish bakes, add the chicken broth and orange juice to the skillet, still on medium high. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced by half. Add the vinegar. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add cilantro and serve over fish.

Orange-Fennel Couscous
Serves 4

1 tblsp. olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved vertically and thinly sliced
1 large shallot, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ¼ c. chicken broth
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 orange, peeled, with sections removed from the membranes and cut in half (use the method here)
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
3 tblsp. cilantro, chopped

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and fennel and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth, turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous and return to a simmer. Cover saucepan, remove from heat and steam for five minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the orange pieces, tomato and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired. Cover the couscous and let it stand for an additional 3-5 minutes or until ready to serve.


Maureen said...

I love Viognier! There are some good ones out of the Paso Robles area that are done in the Rhone style. One of my favorites is Garretson.

Can't wait to try your Halibut recipe. It looks like a winner!

Tim said...

It looks seriously good to me. I love the idea of preparing food to match a wine - something to practice with!

Julie said...

Searing in the skillet and finishing in the oven sounds like a great technique for cooking fish.

christine said...

I'll have to try to find some of this wine Julie. Boy, that halibut looks delish!

Garrett said...

Oooo, citrusy! Sounds shibby good.

Ivonne said...

Wow! That sauce sounds incredible. I don't cook with wine often but I think I will have to try this.

Julie said...

Maureen: I'll keep an eye out for Garretson. Thanks for the recommendation.
Tim: Sometimes drinking is as much fun as eating!
Julie: This works especially well with thicker cuts. The center can cook without burning the outside.
Christine: Thanks! I haven't found a viognier I don't like yet, so I definitely recommend it.
Garrett: Yes, definitely shibby.
Ivonne: Definitely explore cooking with wine! Just a little really does add an extra layer of flavor.