A very Portland dinner

Oregonian dinner, anyway. The menu is Hazelnut-encrusted Halibut with Marionberry-Pinot Noir Sauce over Steamed Kale with Forbidden Black Rice. The rice has nothing to do with Oregon, I just like it. But the halibut, the herbs, nuts, eggs and cornmeal in the crust are local. As are the berries, wine and onion in the sauce, and the kale. The fish recipe is based on a recipe from the current Edible Portland by Chef Jeff Schon. This local free mag is all about local farmers and foodies and where to get the local stuff. It is well done, put out by the Ecotrust folks.

The fish recipe is baked, which is excellent from a health perspective. It also helps to keep us from burning the nut crust in the process of getting the middle of a thick piece of fish cooked all the way. I followed the chef’s recipe for the most part when it came to the crust ingredients, although I added an egg dip make sure I didn’t lose most of the nuts. The Marionberry sauce in the recipe was designed to use tequilla and lemon and lime juices, but I thought a local pinot noir would be a good substitute and not so tart. It also kept me from making a special trip to purchase the tequilla and helped me use up some leftover wine.

I have a confession – the berries weren’t fresh local marionberries, they were a frozen mix of marionberies, blueberries and raspberries. And they were delicious. I’m not wasting fresh berries on any kind of cooked sauce. So you could make this recipe with any berrries (frozen or fresh), although blackberries would be my preferred berry if I lived elsewhere. Fresh berries would be wonderful for garnishing, but I’d eaten them all in a fruit salad. The fish could be any thick semi-fatty fish, like sea bass, and this recipe would also work with chicken breasts.
Marionberry Sauce – get this out of the way at any point before starting the fish. It can be done well ahead and then reheated.
1/2 c. yellow onion, tiny diced
2 T. canola oil
1 T. garlic, minced
1/2 c. Pinot Noir (or any full-bodied slightly fruity red wine)
2 T. honey
2 T. sugar (or to taste if your berries are particularly tart)
1 T. champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar)
2 c. berries, fresh or frozen
healthy pinch of sea salt, healthy grind of black pepper

Start by heating your oil and adding your onions. Let these cook a while until they start to achieve a golden brown color and sweeten up. Add the garlic, stir for 25 seconds or so and then add the wine. This is called de-glazing and will get all the color and stuck onions up off the bottom of the pan. Feel free to use a little more wine if 1/2 c. boils away right off the bat. Cook and stir until most of the liquid evaporates, then add the honey, sugar, vinegar and bring to a boil. Then add the berries and allow to cook at a lower temperature. You don’t want all the liquid to boil away at this point or your sauce will be too dry. I made sure my berries completely defrosted and “popped” in the sauce, but didn’t cook it more than a few minutes before turning off the heat. Add salt and pepper. Purée this up, either by putting it into a food processor or blender, or using an immersion blender. Taste for seasoning.

Fish Crust Ingredients – enough for 4 generous pieces of fish. Leftover crust mix can be frozen to be used again, just remember that it has raw fish germs on it now.

3/4 c. hazelnuts (almonds or pistachios would work)
1 T. fresh thyme, taken off its big stem
1 T. fresh oregano, taken off its big stem
2 T. cornmeal (any kind of grind ok, even polenta if you’d like a crunchier texture)
1 T. flour (white or whole wheat ok)
1 t. sea salt
1 t. black pepper

Run all this through a food processor until it achieves a crumb texture – don’t forget about it and turn it into dust or your texture will suffer.

Beat one egg with a bit of salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Place the crust mixture in another shallow bowl or plate. Rinse your fish pieces and pat dry with a paper towel. Salt and pepper each piece of fish, then dip in the egg and lift out. Roll the fish in the crumb mixture, making sure all sides are thoroughly covered. You can do this ahead of time, but place the fish onto a cooling rack, not onto a plate. You’ll want air to be able to reach all sides of the fish while it waits in the fridge or else the nuts on the bottom will get soggy.

In a 350º oven, preheat a cooking sheet or baking pan. If your pan is slighly non-stick, don’t use any additional oil or you run the risk of having the nuts burn. If you are afraid your pan need a bit of oil, use a spray canola oil sparingly. Add the fish and allow to cook about 15 minutes, depending on how thick your cut is. Ours were over an inch thick and took about 20 minutes. I flipped the fish halfway through the cooking process, but that probably isn’t necessary unless you find the bottom getting especially dark.

I used the 2-fork method to determine if the fish was done in the middle. Put two forks back-to-back into the same spot on the fish, then lever out the handles. You should be able to get a good look into the fish without causing a huge hole. If the nuts fall off at that spot, flip the fish over to serve it 🙂

I served this delicious fish and sauce over forbidden black rice (I like the texure of this rice a lot) and steamed local kale from the farmer’s market. The kale was tossed with a generous amount of fresh lemon juice and coarse Hawaiian pink sea salt.

My husband *really* liked this dinner. It made for a nice presentation and a healthy meal without really “tasting” healthy, if you know what I mean. I think it is super-flexible in terms of ingredients, so while we got a kick out of eating so many local foods, it can be made elsewhere with what you have at hand to good effect.



  1. karen knaus said

    I think you are spoiling Chris with all that wonderful food. I’m sure he says “My Mother never served anything like this!”

  2. He speaks highly of your cooking after you turned “gourmet” when he was older! And yes, he’s spoiled 🙂

  3. CK said

    We’re all aware that these comments are public, right? I’m off to get some leftovers.

  4. Angie said

    hee hee hee hee!!

  5. Jamie said

    Eatin’ local! Woo! That looks incredible, Meshel.

  6. Betsy said

    Hi Michele! This meal does look delicious. I was reading the food section of our paper this morning, and they talked about a website called http://www.eatinggreen.org. It’s kind of neat and has a calculator that determines how your diet effects your health and your environment. I thought you might find it interesting.
    Have a fun trip to Seattle!

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