Italian Seared Halibut with Melted Leeks

Melted leeks, I find, are one of those preparations that taste super indulgent without really being as such. Cooking down a mountain of leeks with some white wine, butter and herbs into a creamy side dish with just a bit of that beautiful spring onion flavor is like heaven in a skillet. Keeping things light, yet satisfying, I added some mushrooms to the mix and topped it all off with a piece of seared halibut spiked with a cap of classic Italian gremolata. Melted leeks are also a great transition-into-warmer-weather side dish: light and springy, yet satisfying enough for a night's sleep with a bit of chill still stuck on it.

Recipe courtesy Patrick Decker
TOTAL TIME: 55 min
Prep: 20 min
Inactive Prep: --
Cook: 35 min
 
YIELD: 4 servings
LEVEL: Easy

ingredients

FOR THE MELTED LEEKS:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 (8- to 10-ounce) pack whole cremini mushrooms, halved
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 small leeks, halved and thinly sliced, washed well and dried
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
FOR THE GREMOLATA:
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Directions

To prepare the melted leeks, place a large skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring only occasionally, until they're golden brown and beginning to shrink a bit, 6 to 7 minutes. (NOTE: Don't salt the mushrooms while they're browning. The salt will pull the moisture out of them and they'll end up stewing instead of getting a nice golden-brown sear.) Remove the mushrooms from the skillet and reserve.

Return the skillet to medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter. Add the leeks to the pan, season them with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring frequently (don't let them get brown), until they've softened, about 10 minutes. Add the white wine and dried oregano to the skillet along with the reserved mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes more. Season as needed with salt and pepper; reserve warm.

While the leeks are cooking, prepare the gremolata. In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients and reserve.

When the leeks are just about ready, place a second medium skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Season the fish liberally with salt and pepper, and sear it flesh-side down first, turning the fillet only once, until cooked to your liking, about 5 minutes per side for medium (depending on the thickness).

Serve the melted leeks topped with a piece of fish per plate and a garnish of the gremolata.

Notes

Cook's Note: A gremolata is a traditional Italian garnish of garlic, herbs and lemon zest, used typically to lighten up heavy roasted or braised dishes such as braciole or osso buco. I had parsley and lemon on hand, so that's what I used, but you really can't go wrong any which way. Try using some tarragon and lemon zest with chicken - or even rosemary and lemon zest over a sliced steak. It's an elegant and simple finish that brings a great pop of freshness to almost any meal.

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