Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Haddock and Pesto Potatoes

Tonight, I was really inspired to use up some of the fresh herbs that had been patiently waiting in our refrigerator. More specifically, I wanted to put a dent in our ridiculous quantity of basil (my favorite herb of all time) before all the leaves started to wilt. If I learned something from my French host mother, it was to use up fresh ingredients as. soon. as. possible. So, what do you do when you have a humongous box of basil that's practically on a countdown to expiration? Make pesto, of course!

With pesto as my inspiration, I created this recipe for potatoes with basil sauce and pan-seared haddock with a roasted tomato and pepper sauce. The red sauce is so flavorful and is absolutely delicious paired with the flaky haddock. The basil sauce adds the perfect compliment and is versatile enough to use in other recipes. Plus I love the red and green colors, making it perfect for a Christmas-time meal. 
Basil Sauce
[2] cups fresh basil
[1] lemon, (juice and zest of half)
[2] tbsp toasted pine nuts, plus [1] tbsp for garnish
[2] garlic cloves, chopped
olive oil

Start by toasting the pine nuts on low heat-- keep an eye on them because they burn so quickly! When you can smell them, they're done. Next, purée the garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice in a blender. Then add the pine nuts, basil, salt and pepper. Start blending and stream in the olive oil until the sauce is completely smooth. I served the sauce chilled on top of the warm potatoes, and sprinkled a couple toasted pine nuts and fresh chopped basil as a garnish.

Boil the potatoes in heavily salted water for about 15 minutes or until fork tender.

I think the fillets look like mittens.
For the haddock, marinate the fillets simply in olive, sea salt, and pepper for about 30 minutes...

When the sauces are finished, just pan fry the fish in olive oil for about 3-4 minutes per side or until the fish is firm to the touch.

Any sturdy white fish will do in this recipe. The sauce is light enough for delicately flavored fish like haddock, but also can stand up to strongly flavored fish. Use whatever looks the freshest. If it looks like it's been dead for a week, chances are it tastes like it, too.

For the red sauce, I knew I wanted to maximize the flavor of the tomatoes (since they're out of season), so I roasted them in the oven and added tons of flavor with roasted red peppers and red chiles. It's not spicy, but has an incredible depth of flavor. You can monitor the spice level by adding more or less red pepper flakes. I adore this sauce and can't wait to make it again. It's gets better the longer it simmers, and even tasted amazing after 1 or 2 days in the fridge. 

Roasted Tomato Pepper Sauce
[6-7] vine-ripened tomatoes
[3] dried New Mexican red chiles, rehydrated (water reserved)
[2] roasted red peppers (you can totally make your own, but I just used jarred)
[1] tsp red pepper flakes
[1] small yellow onion
[1] garlic clove
[2] tbsp worcestershire
[1/4] cups balsamic vinegar
olive oil

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half and season with salt, pepper, and a healthy amount of olive oil. Roast for one hour until the tomatoes are caramelized and rich in flavor.

Meanwhile, rehydrate the chiles in hot water for 20 minutes. After the chiles are softened, take them out of the liquid, remove any seeds, and chop finely. Purée in the blender with about [1/3] cup of the reserved liquid until completely smooth.

Sauté the onion until tender, then add the garlic and about half of the red pepper flakes. Transfer to the food processor, add the puréed chiles, the rest of the red pepper flakes, roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers, worcestershire, balsamic, salt and pepper. Pulse until the mixture is combined but still chunky. Taste and season with salt and pepper. I simmered the sauce while I cooked the haddock for about 10-15 minutes. 

Most people know that I looooooove on the salt, so I tend not to suggest quantities here. Season until you think it tastes good, adding more balsamic or maybe more red pepper flakes to make it spicier. I never follow recipes, so I won't feel bad if you don't either! 

The resulting flavor is so rich and works perfectly with the brightness of the basil sauce. The two huge haddock fillets made about 5 portions, but the sauces leave lots of leftovers. The basil sauce would work great as a marinade and the red sauce would be amazing on vegetarian tacos! 

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