A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky to spend an entire ten days in Seattle with some lovely creatures, a sun that woke me up around 4 every morning, and a kitchen and seafood market at my disposal.
About fifteen months ago, I had the pleasure of lunch with my sister at The Whale Wins. It was my first Erickson restaurant and when I returned home I preordered her new cookbook, which came out last fall. Though I love the physical book itself and the recipes within I haven't made many yet in part because, being centered around the culinary offerings of Seattle, seafood features heavily.
Though I visit family and favourite places in Seattle on a fairly regular basis, I'm usually a guest in my family's home or I stay in a hotel, so I've never had the ability to create my own meals while there. This time I had a lovely kitchen all to myself and took full advantage. Timing was perfect for the morel season, one of my favourite treats.
So I made my first substantial recipe from the book created in Seattle while luxuriating in the intoxicating city itself.
Roasted Side of Halibut with Morel Cream and Sauteed Morels
from A Boat, a Whale, & a Walrus by Renee Erickson
3/4 pound fresh (not dried) morel mushrooms
2 cups heavy cream
1 medium leek, white and light-green parts, washed well and roughly chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
stripped peel of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 (3 to 3 1/2 pound) side fresh halibut
freshly ground black pepper
2 whole lemons, quartered
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
fresh herb sprigs, such as watercress or chervil, for garnish
flaky seas salt, such as Maldon or Jacobsen, for finishing
- First, clean the mushrooms: Using a small, sharp knife, cut the stems off the mushrooms about 1/4 inch into each mushroom cap, separating the caps and stems into two separate bowls and halving any mushrooms that are bigger than a thumb. Wash the mushrooms and ends thoroughly in many changes of water (as many as five for really dirty specimens) and drain well on cloth towels.
- Place the mushroom stems and about a quarter of the mushroom caps (I usually choose the biggest pieces) in a large saucepan along with the cream, leeks, bay leaves, lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a strong simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat and cook at a bare simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the cream has reduced a bit. Discard the bay leaves. In the work bowl of a blender or food processor, whirl the morel cream until very smooth. (You can strain the cream here, if desired.) Season to taste with additional salt, if necessary, and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the fish in a large baking pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. When the morel cream is done, smear the fillet evenly with 1/2 cup of it, season to taste with salt and pepper, and scatter the lemons around the fish in the pan.
- Roast the fish for 25 to 30 minutes, or until just cooked through in the center. About 10 minutes before the fish is done, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter has melted, add half the remaining morels and season to taste with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft and have given up their water, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms and water to a bowl and repeat with the remaining butter and mushrooms. Pour any water off the mushrooms. Stir a big handful of the sautéed mushrooms into the morel cream, and rewarm the cream, if necessary.
- Squeeze the lemons over the cooked fish and discard. Slide the spatula between the fish and the skin to release the flesh, then, using the spatula or your hands, gently break the fish apart into serving pieces by bending it until it breaks naturally.
- Transfer the fish pieces to a serving plate. Drape the fish with the remaining morel cream and top with the sautéed morels. Garnish with the herbs, sprinkle with the sea salt, and serve, hot or at room temperature.
Because I was on my own, I halved the recipe. I only had a blender at my disposal and the results were uneven so if you have a food processor, it will serve you better here, I suspect. Despite halving the recipe, it carried me through four or five substantial meals. Excellent with some broccolini and brown jasmine rice.
This dish was incredibly lovely - really how could it not be with the fresh halibut, morels, butter, and cream?