Preparing for my mom's impending move to Milwaukee has been nothing if not sentimental. It's the reason for me yammering about things like Pound Puppies and Popples, Lisa Frank and Lipsmackers, and getting embarrassingly teary-eyed over boxes of Trolls and Beanie Babies while the house I grew up in is cleared out and packed up.
Behind all that junk, though, there are a lot of memories. But those memories aren't all of material things ... They're also of time spent around favorite tables, in favorite restaurants, with favorite dishes, enjoyed with your favorite people. Some of the memories are almost long forgotten, tucked away for safekeeping. And some of them are newer, fresher, reminding you that memory making is a process that endures forever and there are many yet to be made.
Now that I know the tucked away memories have a slimmer chance of being recreated in the same places, I have to begin bringing them into my own kitchen. So out come to recipes (or as close as I can come to the originals), some old, some new, some homemade, some not. These are the foods that will remind me of home, long after "home" is no longer the city by the Bay.
This particular dish is a more recent find from one of our favorite restaurants in Walnut Creek (a not-quite-home city that I'm sad to leave behind simply for the shopping!). Stanford's served an amazing halibut special, crusted in a potato-fennel mixture and served over a bed of rice that sat surrounded by a delicious river of tomato sauce. I'm glad to say that on my very first attempt, I recreated an almost perfect version ... and will be doing so many more times to come!
Potato Crusted Halibut with Red Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 small onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
1 small russet potato, peeled
1 lb. halibut fillets, skinned
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
To prepare sauce, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a saucepan. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add Italian seasoning and cayenne and stir to combine. Add tomato sauce, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, cover, and turn heat to low.
Shred the potato on a box grater (try to avoid shredding your knuckle, like I did!). Pat potatoes dry between paper towels. Pat halibut dry with paper towels. Spread 1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise over the top of each fillet. Press each fillet, mayonnaise side down, into shredded potatoes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When hot, carefully place each fillet, potato side down, in skillet. Cook, without moving, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and place in oven, cooking another 6 to 8 minutes until halibut is opaque and flakes easily.
Serve fillets over a bed of rice surrounded by sauce.