Sauteed Halibut with Sweet Corn & Clam Ragout
By Wolfgang Puck
I often think that Mother Nature makes it easy for me to be a chef. Take summertime's corn and clams, for example. But I can't stop playing with that perfectly balanced combination of great summertime flavors.
Take summertime's corn and clams, for example. I love the way sweet, earthy corn and clean, briny clams go so well together, and I find myself pairing them often during the summer. One of my favorite combinations is a sweet corn chowder that includes the surprise of tender little clams, a recipe I shared in this column several years ago.
But I can't stop playing with that perfectly balanced combination of great summertime flavors. Sometimes I'll use them to complement other great seasonal ingredients, as I do in the recipe I share with you here for Pan-Roasted Halibut Fillets with Sweet Corn and Clam Ragout.
Halibut is a perfect fish for letting your culinary fantasies run wild. Meaty yet very mild, moist, and tender, it goes well with so many different combinations of flavors. Make sure you purchase halibut that is wild-caught Pacific halibut from Alaska. (You can also try the recipe with long-line Pacific cod, striped bass, wild-caught red snapper from Hawaii, or almost any other sustainable fish you like.)
Even during outdoor cooking season, I choose to saute halibut because it's a quick, easy way to ensure that the fish turns out perfectly moist rather than running the risk of drying out from a grill's intense heat. You don't have to spend too much time cooking the fish, either, since halibut fillets will cook in less than 10 minutes on top of your stove.
And even if you get distracted and overcook the fish a little bit, no one will notice, because the sauce adds lots of delicious moisture to the finished dish.
I start making the sauce first, steaming clams with garlic, herbs, and white wine until they open. Use only the freshest of clams from a reliable source, preferably farmed steamers, littlenecks or cockles. Your clams should have only a clean ocean aroma. When you get them home, put them in a large bowl, cover with a damp towel, and store them in the refrigerator, using them the same day you buy them.
As for the corn, the ideal is to buy it from a roadside stand next to the field where it was grown, or from the farmers' market. Fortunately, however, super-sweet varieties widely available today ensure that you'll have great corn flavor for this dish even if you buy the corn from your local supermarket.
Once you've got all the ingredients, the entire dish will take you no more than about half an hour to prepare. And when your friends ask you where you got such a delicious recipe, tell them it came from Mother Nature!
Sauteed Halibut with Sweet Corn and Clam Ragout Recipe
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 shallots, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound fresh clams (see above), thoroughly scrubbed and rinsed with cold running water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and stringed, kernels cut from the cob
Freshly ground black pepper
4 portions halibut fillet, (see above) each about 6 ounces
In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add half of the parsley along with the thyme and wine; raise the heat and bring to a boil. Add the clams, reduce the heat to a bare simmer, cover the pan, and steam the clams until they open, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, line a large colander or strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a mixing bowl. When the clams are ready, pour them and their steaming liquid into the colander or strainer. Set the bowl aside for the clams to drain and cool.
When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove them from their shells, transferring the meat to a bowl and discarding any clams that haven't opened. Set aside the clam meat and, separately, their strained cooking liquid.
In a medium-sized skillet, melt half of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the corn kernels and saute until tender-crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the clam meat and 1 tablespoon parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and keep warm.
To cook the halibut fillets, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet large enough to hold them. Season the fillets with salt and pepper and saute until they are golden brown and cooked through, moist but still flaky when the thickest part of one is pierced with a knife tip, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, bring the strained clam liquid to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and boil until it reduces by about half its volume. Cut the remaining butter into small pieces and whisk them into the liquid to form a slightly thickened sauce, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining parsley.
To serve, spoon the warmed ragout of corn and clams into the center of individual heated serving plates. Put the halibut fillets on top and drizzle the sauce over and around the fish.
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Recipes: "Sauteed Halibut with Sweet Corn & Clam Ragout "
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