Some time ago, the Critic was diagnosed with a magnesium deficiency. (One of the symptoms that I found more amusing was a twitch in his left eye - maybe Inspector Dreyfuss of the Pink Panther films suffered from the same malady?) In any case, among the magnesium-rich foods that were suggested for his consumption was the fish halibut. As a result, it's a fish we eat frequently. The magnesium deficiency is a thing of the past, but we still like halibut and it makes us feel like we are avoiding a return to the eye-twitching days.
Halibut has a nice tender texture and a delicate flavor. It doesn't stand up well to rough treatment. Cream, shrimp and parsley, however, compliment its tender nutty goodness perfectly.
This is a remarkably simple recipe, relying mainly on the quality of its ingredients for success. I bought the halibut filets and shrimp at our local market, along with a large pot of crème fraîche.
Halibut filets with shrimp sauce
4 filets of halibut
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup pineau de charentes or other sweet fortified wine, such as sherry
1/2 cup cream or crème fraîche
1/3 cup chopped parsley
a little butter, a little flour
salt and pepper to taste
In an ideal world, your shrimp will be fresh. If this is the case, you can cook them quickly in a little boiling water with the wines and reserve the liquor for your sauce. Strangely enough, fresh shrimp are less common in Parisian markets than the cooked ones and so I am usually obliged to start with cooked ones. As a result, I have adopted my own method of recuperating some of the shrimp goodness. Peel the shrimp, reserving the head, skins and tails. Put the skins, tails and heads in a small saucepan with the wine and boil for 15-20 minutes. This can be the basis for a fantastic shrimp bisque or, as in this case, simply a good shrimp sauce. You generally end up with more liquor than you'll need for a sauce, so be sure to freeze the remains for the next sauce or fish soup you make.
Dust the filets with flour, salt and pepper and set the butter to melt in a frying pan. When the butter is frothy, add the filets and cook them quickly on each side. Put them in a warm oven while you make the sauce.
Strain about half a cup of the shrimp liquor into the sauce pan and add the shrimp. Once the sauce has reduced a bit, add the cream and the parsley and taste for salt and pepper. A good grinding of pepper will add a little interest to the sauce. When the sauce has thickened a bit and the shrimp are heated through, ladle 4-5 shrimp over each filet and drizzle with a bit of the cream.
Serve over a bed of rice, or with some nice crusty bread to soak up the sauce.