Fishies of the sea, can you see me? If so, I'd give you a high-five. Quay spotted a beautiful, thick halibut filet during a recent shopping trip, and it was on sale. One of the benefits of shopping early in the morning.
two three benefits of shopping in the AM:
- Fish selection
- Fewer people (especially now)
- Freshly-baked bread
Plus, Leela can continue her morning nap while we're gone.
I felt like doing something with limes which caused coconut milk to pop into my head... And then I remembered I have dried makrut lime leaves in the cupboard. BAM! There it is - the birth of a dish:
Halibut, bok choy, coconut milk, lime, grape tomatoes on the vine, basmati rice.
This mix is a nice change from some of the pasta we've been having and will fill you up without weighing you down.
Halibut is one of our favorites, and we're rarely able to snag a cut like this unless getting a much larger portion. It has a thin skin that's easy to scale and gets super crispy when cooked correctly, leading to a great texture contrast with its flaky, soft meat.
If you're a fan of crispy-skin preparation, you'll love halibut.
To go along with the coconut milk and lime idea, toasted coconut makes sense, and I used the oven method for toasting: sprinkle coconut on a baking sheet and bake on 350 until browned. When you think they're done try a few - if they're chewy and not crunchy, keep baking for a short time longer.
Basmati is my white rice of choice. I use a Misen 3 quart saucier and always have great results with 1 cup of rice and 1.5 cups of water. For this dish, I added three dried makrut lime leaves into the rice mix.
I always use plastic cutting boards for raw proteins.
I wanted the coconut milk to be flavored, but not over the top, so I chose to add some chopped leeks and jalapeños along with makrut lime leaves to the milk.
The makrut lime is a small, very bitter and bumpy citrus fruit native to Southeast Asia. Its leaves provide a foundation in Thai and Southeast Asian cuisine and can be thought of as the equivalent to bay leaves. In fact, fresh leaves look like bay leaves, while dried leaves look more shriveled and curled in comparison.
You can find makrut lime leaves in Asian food stores or on Amazon.
In the rice picture earlier in this post and the one below, you'll see that after the dried leaves are cooked, they expand to their original size.
My plan was to reduce the coconut milk until it had thickened, but the can I had was so watery, it never thickened. It's not the normal brand I buy, and had no fat at all.
I love bok choy. It's got great mild flavor and an awesome crunch. When it's pan-fried, be careful that you don't destroy the leaves - they cook very fast. Try to arrange the pieces in a pan so the stems cook first, then bring the leaves in when nearing completion.
Charring tomatoes is easy and quick. They soften and become deliciously sweet.
Look at the sear on this fish!
Baste the halibut with butter just before removing from the pan.
🐶 Leela Storm's Suggested Pairings
- 🎵 Journey - Stone In Love
- 🍷 Crisp Chardonnay
🍽 Kitchen Critique
The biggest disappointment for me is that the coconut didn't thicken as I had planned - and it's due to using a different brand which was very watery.
Aside from that, it's a very flavorful and vibrant dish due to the makrut lime leaves. They really are necessary to get the underlying flavors correct in the rice and milk - regular lime and lemon just can't replicate the flavor.
Don't leaf out the leaves.
The halibut had a perfect sear, providing great texture with the fish and rice. Bok choy is such a great side, and this sautéed version with nice charring is delicious (though grilled is my hands-down favorite method).
Toasted coconut plays into the sauce and also provides a flavor and texture pop. The charred grape tomatoes aren't a necessary component here, but I had to add them based on the season coming to an end, and their sweet flavor and breakdown are still a welcomed addition.
- Getting a restaurant-quality sear is easy: cook on medium-high heat without moving the fish until it needs to be flipped.
- Invest a few bucks into a bag of dried makrut lime leaves. They are irreplaceable.
- Rice is a blank canvas. Infuse it by adding things like makrut lime leaves, bay leaves, or ginger, and also try cooking it with coconut milk.