I know I said if you want easy entertaining, no precious or fussy food - and nothing says fussy, or rather potentially disastrous, quite like Beurre Blanc. But hear me out, I think I have a good reason, or maybe two, for making an exception.
The primary reason I love this dish is the way it looks - and everybody knows presentation is EVERYTHING right? Well, not really. Quality ingredients, great flavors and recipes that actually work rank up there too.
But fancy presentation is fun - especially when you can resist your Martha-like ways and make it easy. For me, the key to maintaining a cheery, no-sweat demeanor at dinner parties is selecting recipes that include this phrase at least once - "can be made ahead".
In this case, making the Beurre Blanc an hour or so in advance and holding it in a double boiler is pure genius. Even if I've made a sauce a 100 times, I don't like to try it with 10 people standing around the stove. Seriously, nothing robs me of my pleasing disposition faster than broken cream.
The other elements of this dish are extremely simple by comparison and I think that's why the fancy presentation part is both doable and worth it. The tapenade can and should be made ahead - the flavors need time to marry, and basically all you need to do to the Halibut is avoid overcooking it.
1/2 cup pitted Nicoise olives
1/2 to 1 tsp Meyer lemon juice, to taste
1/4 bunch chives, finely chopped
1/4 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 to 2 tsps olive oil
3 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
6 skinless halibut filets, about 6 ozs each
1 to 2 Tbsps vegetable oil, or more as needed
2 Tbsps unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, hand crushed with skin still on
Minced parsley and snipped chives, to garnish
- For the tapenade: Rinse and finely chop the olives. Place them in a mixing bowl and combine with the lemon juice, chives, and parsley. The tapenade can be made a day ahead.
- For the beurre blanc: Heat the oil in a medium, nonreactive sauce pan over low heat; add shallots and cook, stirring, until slightly translucent. Add bay leaf, thyme and wine; cook until nearly evaporated, then remove from heat. Strain out the solids while pressing with a wooden spoon; discard the solids, then return liquid to the pan. Whisk in the cold butter, one piece at a time, until completely incorporated. The sauce can be made a little ahead and kept warm by putting the pot in a pan of hot water.
- For the halibut: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the flour in a shallow bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Dredge the fish in the flour. Add 1 tablespoon oil and the butter to a large oven-proof skillet set over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the fillets and cook until browned on one side, 2 to 3 minutes; do in batches, using more oil, if necessary. Return all fish to the pan, cooked side up; add the garlic and thyme, and place in the oven. Roast until the fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes - less if the fillets are less than 1-inch thick.
- Spoon 2-4 tablespoons beurre blanc around the fish. Top with a spoonful of olive tapenade on top; garnish with fresh parsley and chives.