My normal procedure for gathering information from food magazines goes like this: 1. read magazine, 2. place magazine in stack with others that have been read, 3. eventually, flip though all those read magazines and cut out recipes and photos I want to keep, 4. file those pages and use some sooner than others. However, once in awhile, something catches my eye, and I have to try it immediately. That was the case with this grilled halibut dish from April’s Food and Wine. I didn’t even get to step two. I saw this and made a shopping list. It’s from an article about food and wine pairings suggested by a few different sommeliers. This dish is from Caroline Styne of Lucques and AOC, and a pinot noir was recommended for it.
Tomatoes cooked in butter and spooned over grilled fish was all I really needed to know to want this for dinner. But, as I read through the recipe, I began to wonder how much I would love it with tarragon rubbed onto the fish and also used in the sauce. It’s not that I dislike tarragon, but I wasn’t sure I would love a double-dose of it. I’ve mentioned before that I have Mexican mint marigold growing in my yard, and that is our Texas substitution for fresh tarragon. The plants die back to the ground at the end of winter and then begin new growth in early spring. They’re about halfway back to their normal height now. So, I used chopped Mex. mint marigold instead of tarragon, and it has the same anise flavor. The halibut fillets were rubbed with a combination of chopped parsley, the M.m.m., and lemon zest, and they were left in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Then, they were grilled outside over charcoal while the sauce was made. Butter was melted in a small skillet, whole M.m.m. leaves were added and cooked until fragrant, and then grape tomatoes joined this mixture. It was left to cook over low heat until the tomatoes burst to release delicious juices into the browned butter.
I can say with certainty that the flavors of this dish were as good as I’d imagined when I first saw it in the magazine. The two uses of tarragon or M.m.m. worked fine. The anise was subtle and married nicely with the freshness of the tomatoes and richness of the browned butter. The herb rub on the halibut became a very good accent to the flavor of the fish itself and the smoke from the grill. I made the smashed fingerlings mentioned in the article as well, and they were great on the side. Also great was the light, California pinot noir with nice, balanced fruit whose name I can’t remember because we ended up with a different wine than the one from the article and I failed to write it down. The simple, flavorful sauce could be used on ravioli or gnocchi, and the tarragon could be replaced with thyme for variation. Or, I could happily sit down to a plate of burst-open tiny tomatoes in herbed browned butter and a hunk of bread.