After a full day of weekend errands, shopping the Farmer's Market, and stocking up on wine at our favorite wine shop, we had a refrigerator full of fresh local veggies, and a nice peice of fresh halibut. While I typically go for Asian flavors with halibut and seabass, I had a craving for something more substantial. With fresh tomatoes, fennel and onions crowding the crisper drawer, it was easy to switch gears from my usual ginger-soy Asian influence to something more "provencal."
As I was dreaming up the perfect mix of ingredients and flavor, Scott was delegated to pick a wine for the evening. Not an easy task, when you consider that I asked for something on the lighter side, but not white, and something that we hadn't had recently. (And I will also mention, that out of the 35 bottles we have in the wine cooler, we didn't have one pinot noir or other "light red.") Scott pulled out one of our impulse buys earlier that day. Another "mysterious" wine for us, the Salmon Run had no other information on the label other than 'red table wine.' That, and that it was bottled by Frank and Sons in New York. We love the mystery of not knowing what to expect. Sometimes we are disappointed, sometimes happily suprised. This evening it was the latter. The first suprise was the color. Light, almost transparent, it was reminscent of a young pinot or beaujolais. Skeptical, I took a wiff - then a sip. Cherry and other ripe berries exploded right off. Somewhat off dry, extremely fruit forward, but ending with just a hint of cinnamon and spice, I set the glass down. It took me a minute to process what I was tasting. I was expecting a dry, tannic red. I wasn't sure if it reminded me more of the cheap table wines my parents drank when I was a kid, or a grown up, sophisticated dry rose. After another sip, and thinking about the food we were going to be eating, I decided this was actually going to go quite well with our dinner. As I said, the label indicated that it was a red table wine, and I think I got what that meant. It wasn't competing with food, but it was an easy to drink background flavor. Light enough to pair with the provencal style halibut, and fruity enough to complement the greens and beets that we were having along side. In fact, sipping it as an apertif was quite enjoyable.
Halibut - Provencal Style
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup onion, thinly sliced
2 cups peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fresh fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine (I actually used 1/2 cup red and 1/2 cup white)
2 Tbsp. chopped pitted, kalamata olives
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp capers
1 Tbsp or more, canned artichoke hearts, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup water (or as needed)
2 6-8 oz halibut fillets (or other firm white fish)
Heat oil in a large oven proof pan over med-high heat. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add onion, fennel and salt. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoe and the rest of the ingredients, through bay leaf. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Stir in water.
Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper and place fish on top of onion mixture. Wrap handle of skillet with foil. Cover and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, or utnil fish flakes eaily when tested with a fork Discard bay leaf.