Vitaly Paley’s Halibut with Carrots and Fresh Horseradish
Total time: 30 min
Some of the best dishes are made with few and simple ingredients, and with a bit of care and love, they transform into something memorable and delicious. Take for example Chef Vitaly Paley’s combination of fish + carrot + tomato, a trio that sounds rather run-of-the-mill but when placed in the hands of a master chef and cooked from a childhood memory of a beloved Russian grandmother’s recipe, it becomes more than the sum of its parts.
"This dish," the Russian-born, French-trained chef behind the award-winning restaurants Paley’s Place and Imperial at the Hotel Lucia assured me, "was at every holiday table at every special event, part of every celebration. I remember my grandmother making it. Later, my mom took over. I feel like I need to carry on the tradition but I would rather still eat my mom's version. Eating this dish for me is like mind/gustatory time travel. You know when you take that first bite and the memories just rush in.”
I tested this for a story I wrote for Alaskadispatch.com and have been making it at least twice a month ever since, either with cod or halibut. It's delicious at room temp and chilled the next day, which is how Paley likes to serve it. "You must have it with fresh horseradish!" he emphasized. "My mother always served it that way." Agreed, horseradish takes this to a higher level but sometimes If I don't have any, I garnish with fresh dill and green onions.
- For the Halibut with Stewed Carrots
- About 1 cup vegetable oil, divided
- 8 (4-ounce) pieces halibut filet (or cod or sole)
- About 2 cups all-purpose flour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 5 large carrots; washed, peeled and sliced into 1/ 8-inch round slices
- 1/3 cup ketchup or plain tomato sauce (or use 4 tablespoons tomato paste)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Sugar to Taste (approximately ½ teaspoon)
- For the Fresh Horseradish Sauce
If fresh horseradish is unavailable, substitute a high quality store-bought prepared horseradish.
- 1 fresh horseradish root (about 1 pound); washed and peeled
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
To make the fish:
1. Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Line a plate with paper towel; set aside. Dredge the fish filets in flour, shaking off excess flour. Add filets to the pan and let cook, until golden about 3 minutes. Turn and cook the other side, another 3 to 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook fish in batches if the pan is not large enough to cook all the filets at once. Drain fish on paper towel-lined plate. Place the cooked fish onto a large serving platter.
2. Wipe out the pan and add about ½ cup of the oil; heat over medium heat. Add the carrots and the onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes or until carrots are tender when pierced with a fork. Add ketchup or tomato sauce, tomato paste and sugar. Stir and cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or sugar, as needed. The carrot and onion should be tender and jam-like.
3. Spread the mixture evenly over the fish and cover loosely with aluminum foil until ready to serve. Serve with Fresh Horseradish Sauce. Note: Can be served warm, but this tastes better chilled, after marinating for 2 to 3 hours. Leftovers taste even better the next day.
To Make the Fresh Horseradish Sauce:
1. Finely grate the horseradish root with a grater into a medium bowl. Stir in vinegar, sugar, and salt. Refrigerate, uncovered, for a minimum of 6 hours and up to 12 hours.
Note: If covered, the horseradish will develop a bitter taste.
Date Published: March 29, 2014
All recipes have been tested by the KimSunée.com Test Kitchens unless otherwise noted.