Seared Halibut Pasta with Pistachio Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

At the very tip of the Kenai Peninsula is Homer, Alaska: the halibut fishing capital of the world. A day of fishing can sometimes yield massive halibut weighing hundreds of pounds. Halibut have a mild flavor but are sturdy and meaty in texture. The main thing to know about cooking halibut is that you absolutely do not want to overcook it, especially if you’ve worked so hard to catch it or spent a pretty penny on it at the fishmonger. At medium-rare to medium, the center of the fish is glistening and almost opalescent, perfect to eat. Beyond that, halibut dries out rapidly and is much less enjoyable. Because of its tendency to dry out, I like a quick hard sear, as in this recipe, or a delicate poach. For searing your halibut, it’s handy to own a metal fish spatula to help get up under the fish without damaging the fillet.

March 22, 2018

Ingredients

For the roasted tomatoes:
  • 2 cups small yellow and red tomatoes, such as grape and cherry, sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the pistachio pesto:
  • 1 cup shelled roasted pistachios
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 16 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 4 fillets (4–6 ounces) halibut
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black Pepper

Preparation

To make the roasted tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange the tomatoes on the pan. Drizzle the tomatoes with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until softened and blistered.

To make the pistachio pesto: Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the pistachios, basil, cilantro, garlic, lemon zest, cheese, and 1⁄4 cup of the olive oil. Process on medium speed, drizzling in more olive oil as needed to reach the desired consistency. The pesto should be slightly thinner than a paste, but not runny. Season with kosher salt to taste.

Prepare the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain lightly, reserving about 1⁄4 cup of the pasta water. Return the angel hair to the pot with the pasta water. Stir in the pesto until coated.

In a cast iron skillet, heat the avocado oil over medium-high heat. Pat the halibut fillets dry and season them with salt and pepper to taste. Sear them until browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes (see note). Gently turn them with a metal fish spatula and cook for 60 to 90 seconds, or until cooked to medium-rare to medium in the center, being careful not to overcook, or they will become dry.

To plate the pasta: Divide the pesto-coated angel hair among 4 pasta bowls. Top each bowl of pasta with a halibut fillet. Distribute the roasted tomatoes evenly among the 4 bowls. Serve promptly with freshly grated Parmesan.

Note: Searing time will vary depending on the thickness of your fillets. If your fillets are quite thick, the cast iron skillet can be transferred to a 350°F oven to finish cooking. But again, be very careful not to overcook and dry out the halibut.

About this recipe

Reprinted from Alaska from Scratch by Maya Wilson. Copyright (c) 2018 by Maya Wilson. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.

Ingredients

For the roasted tomatoes:
  • 2 cups small yellow and red tomatoes, such as grape and cherry, sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the pistachio pesto:
  • 1 cup shelled roasted pistachios
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 16 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 4 fillets (4–6 ounces) halibut
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black Pepper
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