Nettles Galore, April in Whidbey Island, Neah Bay Halibut with Creamed Nettles and Morels from 'Lark'
After Elegance for Dessert with Lacquered Peaches from Lark' Cooking Wild in the Northwest' Cookbook (Sasquatch Books, August 2016) by chef John Sundstrom, here's a helping of fish as secomd recipe from the book
Nettles Galore, April in Whidbey Island,
Neah Bay Halibut with Creamed Nettles and Morels
For a few weeks in April, we have a lovely convergence of spring delights: fresh halibut, young and tender stinging nettles, and the first true morels of the season. I bring them together in this bright, earthy, and creamy dish. After months of root vegetables and cabbage we Northwesterners are craving something green, and usually the first stinging nettles fill the void. At Lark I have a network of hard-working foragers who bring them right to me, but nettles grow wild all over. Whidbey Island’s bucolic setting is known for having nettles galore, and many a part-time forager takes revenge on this weed. They do sting, so use tongs to move them from the storage container to the pan for cooking. Cooking removes the stinging properties. Nettles are highly nutritious, full of vitamins and minerals, and delicious. And if this is all just too much, spinach is a great substitute.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
1½ pounds halibut fillets (or cheeks), cut into 6-ounce portions
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¼ pound morels, trimmed, washed, dried, and sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ pound stinging nettles, picked and washed
2 tablespoons dry white wine
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon minced chives, for finishing
1- Season the halibut on both sides with salt and pepper.
2-Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the halibut fillets and cook on one side until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn them over gently and use a spoon to baste the fillets. Continue cooking until they are just cooked through and translucent in the center, 2 to 3 more minutes. Transfer the halibut to a warm plate until ready to serve.
3-In a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add the morels with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook them until just soft and tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until softened but not browned. Using tongs, add the nettles to the pan and stir them into the morels and garlic. Add the wine to deglaze the pan and let it reduce slightly. Stir in the cream and adjust seasoning to taste. Simmer until the cream has reduced to a slightly thickened sauce. Adjust seasoning to taste.
4-To serve, spoon the creamed nettles and morels onto a serving platter. Place the halibut on top and garnish with the chives.
CHEF’S NOTE: When cleaning morels, it is best to use a brush or towel to gently remove the dirt. Sometimes they can be especially dirty and hard to clean completely with a brush and need to be washed in water.It is important not to soak them; dunk them in the water, toss them around briefly and then dry immediately in a salad spinner before laying them out on paper towels.
Be very careful when handling the stinging nettles. At Lark we double up on latex gloves when cleaning them.
(* Recipe (c)2016 by Johnathan Sundstrom. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Lark: Cooking Wild in the Northwest by permission of Sasquatch Books, Photography by Zack Bent)