I distinctly remember the proud and deeply satisfied look in my husband's eyes the first time our youngest, our only daughter, caught her first fish on the Kenai River. When she felt the first little nibble on the line, then that initial, undeniable tug, she let out an excited squeal. Her father was quick to go to her side, coaching her through every step. Together they got it on shore and happily held up the strong, slippery salmon, with huge, victorious smiles on both their faces. I snapped a quick photo to solidify the happy moment in family memory.
Many Alaskans have similar fond memories with a father or grandfather that revolve around fishing and being out on the water. Whether it be subsistence, commercial or recreational, fishing is an integral part of family life here. In honor of Father's Day, I can think of nothing better to cook at home than a recipe that highlights our local seafood, like these wild Alaska halibut fillets poached in a spicy coconut red curry sauce. Honor the fathers and grandfathers in your life with this simple yet impressive dish. Spend time around the table eating together and swapping fishing stories.
Poached halibut in coconut red curry sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
24 ounces fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
3 shallots, diced
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1½ cups chicken broth
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (I used light)
½ teaspoon sugar
4 wild Alaska halibut fillets, skin removed
¼ cup cilantro, plus more for serving
¼ cup green onions, sliced on the bias, plus more for serving
1 half lime, juiced (cut the other half into wedges for serving)
2 cups steamed jasmine rice (optional)
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach to the pan and season it generously with salt and pepper. Toss the spinach in the olive oil until the spinach just begins to wilt down. Remove the spinach to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the moisture from the pan and return the skillet to the heat.
Add the other tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Saute the shallots in the oil for 2-3 minutes until tender and fragrant. Add the curry paste, followed by the chicken broth, coconut milk and sugar. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and allow the curry to reduce by half. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed.
Season the halibut fillets lightly with salt. Place the halibut fillets into the broth, spooning some of the broth over the top. Cover the pan and allow the fillets to poach about 5 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fillets), or until cooked to medium-rare to medium, being very careful not to overcook (halibut dries out quickly and we want to avoid that).
Distribute the sauteed spinach evenly between 4 serving bowls. Carefully place a halibut fillet on top of each bed of spinach.
To the curry broth, stir in the cilantro, green onion and the juice of half a lime. Ladle the broth over each of the halibut fillets. Garnish with fresh cilantro and green onion. Serve with steamed jasmine rice, if using, and lime wedges.
Alaska From Scratch