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Humblebragging Halibut Salad

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A noble hors d’oeuvre, a proud sandwich, or throning atop simple field greens, halibut salad is an elegant multitasker that can go casual or dress to kill—whatever the occasion calls for. If you conceive of halibut salad as no different than tuna, just with a substitute fish, then think again. Chopped boiled egg compliments halibut’s unique flavor and adds a light fluffiness to a salad that would otherwise run the risk of bearing a dense or pasty texture. The addition of homemade mayonnaise contributes its rich silkiness, the red bell pepper its sweetness, and the dill its savory umami quality. While this recipe is not difficult, it does require an investment in the details that render it truly exceptional, but it is well worth the time and affection.

Included with this recipe are three different serving suggestions. As an hors d’oeuvre, this halibut salad is smashing on caramelized onion crackers such as Potter’s, or spooned onto endive spears. It makes for a most delicate sandwich with slivers of avocado and a little of the homemade mayonnaise spread onto the bread. Or for a fresh and tangy counterpoint, served over greens tossed in a Dijon vinaigrette. Pairs equally well with a light ale as with a full-bodied white wine.

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Halibut salad with greens and a Dijon vinagrette.

Halibut Salad

INGREDIENTS

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1 ½ pounds halibut (preferably one large center cut or two filets)

4 large eggs, boiled to medium doneness, peeled, and chilled

1 red bell pepper, peeled

2 celery stalks, either unpeeled heart stalks or peeled outer stalks

2 tablespoons finely chopped dill

juice of ½ lemon

1 ½ teaspoon sea salt

⅓ cup homemade mayonnaise (see below)

optional: freshly ground white pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Poach the halibut in a large, deep pan or a fish poacher, simmering under just enough water to barely cover the fish and cooking until firm yet springy to the touch. Doneness can be tested for with ease by slicing into the fish with a knife to peek at the center. Once fully but not over-cooked, remove halibut from the water and let cool on the countertop, then place in the refrigerator under a layer of plastic wrap until fully chilled. The halibut and boiled eggs can cook and chill simultaneously.

Slice the top off the red bell pepper, remove the seeds and pith, then slice the pepper into strips and cut into a fine dice. Dice the celery to comparable size. Chop enough dill to yield 2 tablespoons and mince until fine, but not granular.

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Once chilled, flake the halibut filets in a large bowl then spread out on a plate and remove any bones. Return the halibut to the bowl. Coarsely dice the chilled boiled egg and add to the bowl. Add red bell pepper, celery, dill, lemon juice, 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt, and ⅓ cup of mayonnaise. Mix ingredients with a large fork until combined, without mixing more than necessary. Taste and add more mayonnaise, salt, and optional white pepper if needed, then mix again briefly. Serve as desired and garnish with dill sprigs.

Homemade Mayonnaise

INGREDIENTS

1 cup safflower oil

1 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of ½ lemon)

1 tablespoon water

¼ teaspoon salt

Special Equipment: hand-blender with cup

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to the cup and let rest for three minutes to allow oil to float to the top. Plunge the hand-blender to the bottom of the cup, blend at high speed until an emulsion starts to form, then tilt the blender slightly to suction the remaining oil until fully blended.

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Halibut salad sandwich with avocado.

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