Eric Akis: A sheet-pan dinner just for the halibut

Eric Akis

B.C. halibut is in season and there are many ways to cook it, such as grilling, pan searing and steaming. But if you want to create a dinner that is mostly cooked in one vessel, get out a sheet pan and turn on the oven.

When you’re planning how to make this sheet-pan dinner, the place to start, of course, is with the fish. I decided to use halibut fillets and knew I had purchased very fresh fish because it glistened, was solid, almost translucent-looking and had an appealing sea-like aroma.

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To further enhance the flavour of the fish, I coated the top of each fillet with a crust made from crushed cashews, panko, lime zest and grated ginger. To help that crust adhere, I first brushed the fish with a light, but sticky, coating of tangy mayonnaise.

Because my crust was Asian in style, it seemed logical that the rest of my sheet-pan dinner should be too.

So, once it was coated and set on the pan, I surrounded the fish with things I might use in a stir-fry, including broccoli florets, cubes of bell pepper and small chunks of fresh pineapple.

In a small pot, I also made an Asian-style sauce to drizzle over everything on the pan once cooked. It’s tasty and easy to make and contains such ingredients as Thai-style sweet chili sauce, pineapple juice, soy sauce and sesame oil.

When cooked, the flesh of the fish will become opaque and feel slightly firm, not hard (a sign it’s overcooked) and not soft (a sign it’s not cooked through). It will also start to very slightly separate into flakes.

Cashew-Crusted Halibut Sheet-Pan Dinner

This is an Asian-style way to turn in-season, fresh B.C. halibut fillets into a meal that serves four. You could serve this sheet-pan dinner with steamed rice or Asian-style egg noodles.

Preparation time: 35 to 40 minutes

Cooking time: 15 to 17 minutes

Makes: four servings

For the sauce

1/2 cup Thai-style sweet chili sauce (see Note 1)

1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger

1/2 tsp sesame oil

• Sriracha or other hot chili sauce, to taste (optional)

For the sheet pan dinner

1/4 cup unsalted roasted cashews, coarsely crushed (about 40 grams; see Note 2)

1/4 cup panko

1 tsp finely grated lime zest

1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 (5 to 6 oz./140 to 170 gram) halibut fillets (see Note 3)

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

8 to 12 broccoli florets, blanched (see Note 4)

1 small to medium red bell pepper, cubed

12 to 16 1-inch cubes peeled fresh pineapple

2 tsp vegetable oil

• lime wedges and cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small pot and set aside.

Combine the cashews, panko, zest, 1 tsp grated ginger, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.

Brush the top of each halibut fillet with some of the mayonnaise. Set a piece of the halibut, mayonnaise-side down, on the cashew mixture, firmly pressing down on fish to help it adhere. Set the halibut, coated-side-up, on the baking sheet. Coat the remaining halibut fillets in this fashion and set them on the baking sheet too, spacing each one about four or so inches apart. Top each halibut fillet with any cashew mixture left in the bowl.

Place the broccoli, bell pepper, pineapple and oil in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Surround the fish on the baking sheet with the broccoli, bell pepper and pineapple.

Bake this sheet-pan dinner for 15 to 17 minutes, or until fish is just cooked through.

As the fish cooks, place the pot with the sauce ingredients in it over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer two minutes, and then turn the heat to low.

When cooked, drizzle the fish and other items on the sheet pan with some of the sauce. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs. Serve this halibut dinner right from the pan, with the remaining sauce alongside.

Note 1: Thai-style sweet chili sauce and panko, coarse Japanese-style breadcrumbs, are sold in the Asian foods aisle of most supermarkets.

Note 2: Unsalted roasted cashews are sold in the bulk-foods section of grocery stores and at stores specializing in bulk foods. To coarsely crush them, place them in a thick plastic bag and hit with a kitchen hammer, or roll and crush with a rolling pin.

Note 3: The halibut fillets I used were about 1 1/4-inches thick.

Note 4: To blanch the broccoli florets, plunge them into a generous amount of boiling water for two minutes. Drain well, cool in ice-cold water, drain well again and they are ready to use.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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