In my mind, Brussels sprouts have two life partners: pigs and vinegar. Whether that means pancetta and balsamic vinegar or prosciutto and apple cider vinegar matters very little, but every fall, when Brussels sprouts show up, paraded around like miniature kings on stalks much too big for them, I try them all different ways and relearn that pigs and vinegar work best for me.
It’s worked on other people, too. Kids, even. One Thanksgiving, a family I prepared Thanksgiving for on Cape Cod convinced a legion of teenage girls that Brussels sprouts are awesome. (Just ask Carroll.) Oh, yes, that’s what we need today, a dose of Brussels sprout evangelism. Buy some sprouts, and come into the light.
Last night, I had a plan: I’d roast Brussels sprouts, leeks, and bacon together in the oven, sear halibut fillets to a delicious golden brown on one side on the stove, then flip them onto the sprouts (seared side-up) to finish cooking in the oven with some sherry vinegar (it’s my acid of choice these days, have you noticed?), and make a quick pan sauce.
But it didn’t happen that way. I transfered the halibut to the oven, whipped across the kitchen with the pan in my hand, and splashed it with cold water so Tito didn’t have to scrub it (as hard) later. I went back to the stove to find the thyme and white wine staring up at me from the counter next to the stove like pets needing to be fed. You forgot us? they seemed to be asking.
Yes. Yes, sorry, I did forget you. And when the fish was ready, we had no choice but to strand it on white plates next to a pile of Brussels sprouts with pig and vinegar, with no drizzle of anything to cloak it in warmth and moisture.
But with a slice of rosemary bread and a little salad, it turned out to be the perfect dinner. With no sauce, we really tasted the fish, perfectly cooked. We felt its crisp, flavorful tan melt into our tongues, and tasted the sprouts’ humble, earthy flavor.
Sauce? What was I thinking?
Pan-Seared Halibut with Brussels Sprouts, Leeks, and Bacon (PDF)
Recipe 298 of 365
This is my idea of a 30-minute meal: no theme, no tricks. Just a few good ingredients, cooked with care and a splash of vinegar, with time to enjoy a glass of wine while you’re at the stove.
TIME: 35 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 2 servings, with extra sprouts
2 thick slices bacon, diced
1 small leek, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4” pieces
3/4 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 halibut fillets (about 3/4 pound, approximately 1” thick)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the bacon in a baking dish large enough to hold the sprouts in a single layer, and roast 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Add the leeks and Brussels sprouts, season with salt and pepper, stir to blend, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes (or just 5 minutes, if you find small sprouts).
Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the halibut with salt and pepper. Add the sherry vinegar to the Brussels sprouts, and return to oven while you cook the halibut. Add the oil to the hot skillet, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the halibut, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the halibut is nicely seared on the bottom side. Transfer the halibut to the pan with the Brussels sprouts, seared side-up,
and roast until cooked through, another 4 to 5 minutes. Serve hot.
*Note: there’s no reason you can’t finish cooking the halibut in the pan on the stove, and just serve it with the sprouts. This recipe is just exactly what I did. Also, you could make a quick pan sauce with some white wine . . .