Braised Halibut with Leeks and Mustard

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Braising is not just for tough roasts. It can also give you supple, perfectly cooked fish—with a vegetable side and a silky sauce, to boot. Cook’s Illustrated prefers to prepare this recipe with halibut, however the prices lately are over-the-top, so a similar firm-fleshed white fish such as striped bass or sea bass that is between 3/4 and 1 inch thick can be substituted. Our fish choice was cod and it made for an excellent substitution. To ensure that your fish cooks evenly, purchase fillets that are similarly shaped and uniformly thick.

As a moist-heat cooking method, braising is gentle and thus forgiving, all but guaranteeing moist, succulent fish. Plus, it makes a one-pot meal (no complaints here) since the cooking liquid becomes a sauce, and it’s easy to add vegetables to the pan to cook at the same time. Butter gives it some much-needed richness and the right velvety texture.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) skinless halibut fillets, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

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INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Sprinkle fish with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over low heat. Place fish in skillet, skinned side up, increase heat to medium, and cook, shaking pan occasionally, until butter begins to brown (fish should not brown), 3 to 4 minutes. Using spatula, carefully transfer fish to large plate, raw side down.

    2. Add leeks, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until leeks begin to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Add wine and bring to gentle simmer. Place fish, raw side down, on top of leeks. Cover skillet and cook, adjusting heat to maintain gentle simmer, until fish registers 135 to 140 degrees, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using 2 spatulas, transfer fish and leeks to serving platter or individual plates. Tent loosely with aluminum foil.

    3. Return skillet to high heat and simmer briskly until sauce is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over fish and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

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Our braised cod was paired with sautéed swiss chard and a side of chickpea salad.

From Cook’s Illustrated | March/April 2015

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