Sample one of Jon Blackford’s Imperial Wagyu strip steaks, and you may never want to explore other entree options.
The meat is so richly flavored and the texture so velvety, it could be addictive. Blackford, executive chef at A Restaurant in Newport Beach, sears the perfectly marbled beef directly on a French burner. He says that the device is 10 to 15 percent hotter than a more conventional plancha. The process caramelizes the exterior in a mouth-watering manner before it is finished in the broiler.
I understand any resistance to wander off the steak path. But if you don’t try Blackford’s Alaskan halibut, you are missing out.
The short video shows the step-by-step preparation. Watch it, you’ll be impressed with all the practical tips he shares.
The fish is a center-cut fillet. It has a lovely crust, browned just enough to create texture contrast with the moist interior. It sits atop a piping hot potato concoction that has just-right acidity, a quality that brings out the sweetness in the halibut. The rustic potato mix teams tender, spoon-broken Yukon Gold potatoes with two vibrant mustards, as well as crème fraiche.
A creamy mélange of asparagus and oyster mushrooms accompany the dish. The mixture has a scattering of black garlic, caramelized garlic cloves that lend alluring sweet-sour taste and depth of flavor.
Blackford consented to come to my home and show me exactly how to prepare the dish while taping a short video. I was impressed with the number of tips he offered along the way, from pre-reducing cream for pan sauces to make the cooking time shorter, to cutting green onions to get the best flavor and texture.
A Restaurant’s Alaskan Halibut
Yield: 4 servings
8 medium-size unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes, washed, dried
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 (6 ounces each) halibut fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons cooking oil, either grape seed oil or blended (90 percent canola, 10 percent extra-virgin olive oil)
1/2 cup crème fraiche
2 tablespoons sliced green onions, middle light green portion only
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, strong French–style preferred
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cooking oil, either grape seed oil or blended (90 percent canola, 10 percent extra-virgin olive oil)
6 asparagus stalks, thin preferred, cut on diagonal into 2-inch lengths
2 to 3 large clusters oyster mushrooms, torn into small clusters, shallowly trimmed at base
1 large shallot, peeled, julienned
1/3 cup Riesling (slightly sweet)
1/3 cup reduced cream, see cook’s notes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pinch chopped fresh thyme
8 cloves black garlic, peeled, see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: A sauce-making restaurant tip is to reduce cream by half in advance, cool and refrigerate it. This saves time when making the sauce. Black garlic is made by heating whole bulbs of garlic over the course of several weeks. It is sold at Surfas Culinary District in Costa Mesa and online at melissas.com.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a roasting pan, toss potatoes with garlic, thyme and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil; bake in preheated oven for about 1 1/2 hours. Make sure the potatoes are soft when they come out of the oven.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Just before cooking, season fish generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil on high heat in ovenproof skillet (large enough to hold fish in single layer, or use two skillets). When golden brown around the bottom edge, place it in the oven. After 4 or 5 minutes turn fish and cook just until barely cooked through, about 1 minute (time varies depending on thickness). Tiny bubbles will start to appear on the side of the fish when it is done.
3. Remove and discard any woody thyme stems from potatoes. Crush the cooked potatoes with the back of a good-sized spoon; add crème fraiche, green onions, mustards, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. If they are still hot from the oven there will be no need to reheat; but if not, mix everything in a sauté pan and heat on the stove.
4. For sauce: Heat a sauté pan on medium high heat; add oil. Add asparagus and shallots; cook for 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté about 1 minute. Add Riesling and scrape up any browned bits in pan. Cook until liquid is reduced by half in volume. Add cream and simmer on medium heat until thickened.
5. Finish fish: When fish comes out of the oven, add thyme, butter, and black garlic cloves to the hot pan. Using a spoon, baste the melted butter over the fish to flavor it. Place a serving of potatoes on each of four plates and place a fish fillet on top of each, leaving the remaining butter in the pan, but topping with the black garlic. Spoon asparagus mixture with the sauce on either side of the potatoes and serve.
Source: Jon Blackford, executive chef A Restaurant, Newport Beach
…Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s…
Creamy kale soup is quick and easy to prepare. To make it vegetarian, use vegetable broth.
Cream of Kale Soup
Yield: 4 servings
1 large baking potato, such as Russet, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth, divided use
1 large bunch washed kale, curly or Tuscan variety, central stalks removed (scroll down through the video to see how to do this), coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried, or dried Italian herb mix
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Garnish: Greek-style yogurt or cream
1. Place potato, garlic and broth in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat; lower heat to medium low and simmer 10 to 12 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.
2. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, combine remaining broth, kale, bay leaf and oregano. Bring to boil on high heat; reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Puree potato mixture with immersion blender or in a food processor. Remove and discard bay leaf from kale mixture. Stir potato mixture into kale mixture. Puree about 1/3 of the mixture either with an immersion blender or in the food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir; taste. If needed, adjust seasoning, stirring in lemon juice if desired, and additional salt and/or pepper if needed. Divide into 4 bowls. Top each with a hearty dollop of yogurt or a spoonful of heavy cream.