We had some lovely halibut fillets in the freezer and had planned to grill them outside, but then the thunderstorms rolled in and put an end to that idea. So what to do? After debating for a while and not liking the sound of anything, we remembered this excellent chicken and orzo recipe by the marvelous Regina Schrambling. I’ve been reading Schrambling’s blog for years, but I originally found this recipe via The Wednesday Chef. The only question was, would the halibut dry out if we cooked it as long as the recipe recommended for chicken, and if we didn’t, would the orzo turn out properly? There was only one way to find out.
We followed the recipe pretty closely, but we cut back on the oregano since the fish has a more delicate flavor, and I reduced the original amount of several of the ingredients to match the proportion of fish. Oh, and we added capers and tomatoes. So maybe we didn’t follow it that closely. But it’s in the spirit of the original dish, and it tasted wonderful.
1 pound halibut fillet
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 small or 1/2 large lemon, cut into 8 pieces
1 cup orzo
2 cups chicken stock (low-sodium if canned)
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp capers
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 Tbsp minced fresh oregano
Salt to taste
14-20 cherry or grape tomatoes
Heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a sauté pan. When the oil is hot, add the halibut. Sear on each side over medium heat (4-5 minutes). Remove the halibut and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the white wine. Deglaze the pan and let the alcohol evaporate for a minute or two. Add the garlic and stir for a minute.
Add the olives, lemon pieces, stock, bay leaf, capers, oregano, and salt. Add the orzo, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Return the fish carefully to the pan. Cover and turn heat to low; the mixture should be gently simmering. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the orzo has absorbed most of the liquid. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3-5 more minutes, until they are warmed through and the skins have just begun to split.
I know it seems as if the orzo would become mushy and overcooked, but it just turns creamy and delicious.
SUBSTITUTIONS: You can substitute stock for the wine, and you can use vegetable stock or bouillon if you want to avoid chicken. And I think any fairly firm, thick fish would work as a substitute for the halibut. Not thin filets, though, because they’ll cook too fast and become tough.