Tunisian Poached Fish
The cooking of Tunisia combines elements of Mediterranean cuisine with French and African influences. Chef Pawlcyn infuses halibut—a mild fish—with coriander, cumin, garlic, tomato and a little hot pepper to zip up the flavor. Preserved lemons, olives and capers play up the Tunisian character of the recipe.
1 3/4 lb. fresh halibut steak
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 small hot pepper
4 to 6 baby red onions
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 med. red onion, grated
2 med. tomatoes, halved, seeded and grated
1 head garlic, separated into cloves
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1 cup brine-cured olives, rinsed and drained
Flour for dusting
4 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
Peel from 1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed, drained, and cut into thin julienne
1/2 cup finely chopped, toasted walnuts
1 tbsp. chopped celery leaves
- Rinse fish, pat dry with paper towels, and divide into 6 equal pieces. Season each piece with salt, pepper and ground cumin. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hr.
- Steam hot pepper and baby onions until almost tender, about 10 min. Stem, seed and coarsely chop the pepper; peel onions.
- In deep-sided med. skillet, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add grated red onion; cook over med. heat, stirring 3 to 4 min. until softened. Add tomatoes; cook until excess moisture evaporates, about 7 min.
- Add garlic, tomato paste, ground coriander, olives, steamed chopped hot pepper, baby onions and 1 cup water. Cover and cook over med. heat 10 min. The sauce should be thin, light and very hot.
- Heat remaining 1 tbsp. oil in large nonstick skillet over med.-high heat. Dust seasoned fish with flour and place skin-side down in hot oil. Fry 2 min. or until skin is crispy. Turn each piece of fish; fry 1 min, longer.
- Pour hot sauce over fish. Add cherry tomatoes, capers and preserved lemon peel; simmer over low heat 1min. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 15 min. before serving. The fish will finish cooking in the receding heat.
- To serve, garnish with walnuts and chopped celery leaves.