Sunday, August 18, 2013

Halibut with Tamarind-Chili Sauce

This recipe is adapted lightly from Rick Bayless:
I used mulato and panca peppers, because they were in my pantry. Mulatos are closely related to ancho chili peppers (both come from dried poblanos – not sure what the differences are to tell you the truth, but I can say that the mulatos were slightly smaller than anchos). Panca peppers (aji panca) are a Peruvian pepper with a fruity flavor. This sauce sort of reminds me of a mole, with the way the chili flavors play against the cinnamon and sugar (especially so with the toasted almonds).

Serves 3

Tamarind-Chili Sauce:
¼ lb. fresh tamarind pods, outer shell and strings removed
1 ounce dried mulato pepper (about 4)
1 ounce dried aji panca (about 3)
5-6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 inch piece cinnamon stick (Mexican canela), broken into pieces
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup raisins
2 tbsp. brown sugar

Rest of the dish:
3 halibut filets
Large shallot
1 yellow squash
Handful of sliced almonds, toasted

Make the sauce:
Add the deshelled and de-stringed tamarind to a bowl along with 1 cup hot water. Soak until softened, 30 minutes. Ignore the fact that it looks like poop.

Insert Caddyshack reference here.

Remove the stems and seeds from the chilis and cut/rip into strips. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and toast the chilis, about 30 seconds per side, until they start to smell fragrant. Add to a bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit for 30 minutes, until softened.

While the tamarind and chilis are soaking, roast the garlic on the same skillet you used for the chilis. They should blacken in places. This should take around 15 minutes (turn the garlic occasionally). Peel the cloves and add them to the jar of a blender

Add the cinnamon, oregano and black pepper to a coffee grinder and pulverize. Add to your blender jar.

Add ¼ cup raisins to the blender jar.

Drain the chilis and discard the soaking liquid. Add the peppers to the blender jar.

Squeeze the tamarind between your hands to separate the pulp from the seeds. Discard the seeds and add the pulp to the blender, along with the soaking liquid. Add another ½ cup water and 1 teaspoon of salt to the blender mixture. Blend to a smooth puree. If you have a diesel blender, you can get away without straining. Otherwise, strain the mixture into a bowl.

Place a medium saucepot on the stove over medium, and add 2 tbsp vegetable oil. Add the sauce and boil for 5 minutes, to reduce to the consistency of tomato paste.

Marinate and cook: 
Add half the mixture to a Ziploc bag, along with the fish filets, and marinate for at least 1 hour. 

 Add ¼ cup or so of water to the remaining sauce to give it the consistency of light cream soup.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Once the fish has been marinated, remove and wash off excess marinade. Pat dry and salt on all sides. Heat a skillet over medium high, and sear the fish for 2 minutes per side. Brush the top with the tamarind-chili sauce and transfer to the oven, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the fish reaches an internal temp of 140-145°F.

For the squash:

Slice the shallots and the squash. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add a splash of olive oil, and cook the shallots and squash for 6 to 7 minutes, salting along the way, until softened and lightly colored.

Serve the fish over the squash. Garnish with toasted almonds, parsley and a side of the sauce.


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