Pan-Seared Halibut With Tomato Basil Couscous
Note: From “Easy Culinary Science for Better Cooking,” by Jessica Gavin.
• 2 (8-oz.) halibut fillets, about 2-in. thick
• 1/2 c. pearl Israeli couscous
• 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
• Black pepper, for seasoning
• 1/4 c. grapeseed oil or vegetable oil
• 2 c. baby tomatoes, cut in half
• 1/4 c. pitted kalamata olives, sliced
• 1/4 c. minced shallots
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 tbsp. minced parsley
• 1 tbsp. thinly sliced basil
• 2 lemon wedges
Remove fish from refrigerator and transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Let stand for 15 minutes at room temperature.
Before frying, make sure the surface of the fish is very dry. Use paper towels to wick up any additional moisture so that immediate browning can occur. Cooking a wet piece of fish will cause excess oil splattering and steam from the pan, which delays browning and can be dangerous.
Prepare the couscous by adding 3/4 cup water in a medium saucepan fitted with a lid and bring to a boil. Add the couscous, cover and turn down to simmer. Cook until couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. Heat the grapeseed oil in a large 12-inch sauté pan over high heat, until oil starts to shimmer and is very hot. Carefully add each fillet into pan presentation-side down, pressing down on the fish for a few seconds with a spatula to create direct contact with the oil.
Reduce heat to medium-high and cook until fish is golden brown, about 5 minutes; do not move the fish. Carefully flip the fish and reduce heat to medium, and cook until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, about 7 minutes. During this time, you can tilt the pan and baste the sides of the fish with the hot oil to help with cooking. Turn off the heat and transfer the fish to a paper towel-lined plate to remove some of the excess cooking oil. Drain oil from the pan and return to the stove.
In a medium-size bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, shallots, garlic, red wine vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Warm pan over medium heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add tomato mixture. Cook until tomatoes are softened and a light sauce forms, about 6 minutes. Add couscous, parsley and basil to pan, and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
Divide tomato basil couscous in 2 bowls and top with halibut. Serve with lemon wedges.