I’m sure that as I write this article many of you are already pondering the Holiday Season, with all the shopping, cold weather and, dare I mention the four letter word . . . SNOW! However, let’s not be so hasty. Fall is still upon us and it yields a veritable plethora of amazing produce, just waiting to be utilized. One of my personal favorites is the butternut squash. With its vibrant orange coloration and earthy vegetal flavor, it lends itself to being quite a star among fall produce. Whether it gets cut in half and roasted, transformed into a velvety soup or mixed into a risotto, the butternut squash has a magnificent presence. The recipe I have chosen to share with you uses butternut squash to complement wild-caught halibut. I use the squash for both a smooth sauce and a beautiful garnish accompanied by cranberries, another fall favorite. This dish is elegant enough to make an appearance on your Thanksgiving table, yet simple enough to be made for any standard evening dinner.
Pan-Seared Halibut with Butternut Squash and Cranberries
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
Cook Time: 20 minutes
4 – 8-ounce filets of Halibut, skin removed
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 sprigs Thyme
2 Tablespoons Butter
Butternut Squash Sauce
1 medium sized (~1 pound) Butternut Squash
1 Honey Crisp Apple
Cinnamon (Light sprinkling to taste)
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Rosemary
¼ cup Onion, small diced
¼ cup Celery, small diced
1½ cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup Roasted Butternut Squash
½ cup Dried Cranberries
¼ cup Vegetable Stock
Method of Preparation:
1. Peel the butternut squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Cut the squash into a small dice and place in a bowl. Dice the apple so that the pieces are the same size as the squash. Drizzle the squash and apples with olive oil, just to lightly coat them. Season with Salt, Pepper, Brown Sugar and Rosemary. Mix to combine everything and then place the mixture on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake the mixture in a 350-degree (F) oven for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is tender.
2. In a medium saucepot add a small splash of olive oil. Heat the pot over medium-high heat until the oil is hot. Add the celery and onion and cook until translucent. (Do not allow browning.) Reserve 1 cup of the baked squash mixture for the garnish before adding the remaining mixture to the sauce pot. Pour in the stock and allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes on low heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add stock a little at a time until it’s a desired consistency.
3. Place a large sauté pan with a tablespoon of olive oil over high heat. While the pan gets hot, pat the Halibut filets dry with a paper towel and season both sides of the filets with salt and pepper. Once the pan is smoking hot, sear the filets, and allow them to cook for about 1-2 minutes before flipping them. Once all filets are flipped, turn the heat down to medium, add the butter and thyme to the pan, and baste the filets with the melted butter. Finish cooking them in a 350-degree (F) oven for approximately 5-10 minutes or until the fish reaches an internal cooking temperature of 130 degrees (F).
4. For the garnish place dried cranberries and vegetable stock in a small saucepot over medium heat. Allow the cranberries to rehydrate and absorb the stock. Add the reserved squash and freshly chopped parsley.
5. To serve, spoon the roasted butternut squash sauce on the plate and place the halibut filet on top and garnish with a spoonful of squash and cranberries.
Lucio C. Battista is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a Bachelor’s in Culinary Nutrition and a Master’s of Art in Teaching. He can be found cooking in kitchens all over Westchester County as a personal chef and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.