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I am known by friends for giving great dinner parties. Usually if you come to my home for dinner, you can expect anywhere from 4 to 7 courses, depending on the dinner and the season and how much time I have to prepare. But almost always there will be a fish course. Halibut and Forbidden Rice in a Saffron Cream Jus was one of those fish courses I came up with. Visually the colors are lovely, with the black rice and white fish swimming in a beautiful yellow saffron jus. But even better is the multiple layers of flavor.
I love the color and earthy flavor of the forbidden (black) rice
Forbidden rice (Lotus Foods owns this name), or black rice (what everyone else can call it :-)), use to be difficult to find, but now it is very popular and carried in most grocery stores. Black rice is high in nutritional value and has 18 different amino acids, iron, zinc and other vitamins. Black rice was made a ‘superfood’ worldwide thanks to an important piece of research done by Dr. Zhimin Xu, titled “Black rice rivals pricey blueberries as source of healthful antioxidants”. The research stated that “just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants”. It’s flavor is slightly nutty and earthy and the color is anywhere from dark purple to black.
Saffron adds a unique flavor and color to the dish. I know, saffron is expensive. Actually it is the most expensive spice by weight in the world. It is graded by color, taste and fragrance on a scale of IV (lowest) to I (the best). It’s grown in many areas of the world with all of them claiming to be the best! I get mine, a Spanish saffron, from Trader Joe’s for about $5.00 for .70g. I’m sure it’s not the “BEST” saffron, but it does impart flavor and color so I guess it gets the job done. And without breaking the bank!
I like using fresh artichokes when they are available. Their soft, almost potato like texture and earthy flavor really adds a nice layer to the dish. If you can’t find fresh, then frozen or canned will have to do. Be sure to thaw and clean the frozen artichokes of all the hard little leaves they always leave on them. You want the choke heart more than the leaves. In this case I had only large ones to choose from, so after removing all the leaves from the 2 I bought (and putting those into the compost as they are a good source of nitrogen) I cut the hearts into 6 pieces each then cleaned out the middle fluff. If you have smaller chokes, you can use 4 of them and just cut the hearts into quarters. To keep the heart from turning color (ugly brown) while you prepare them, put them into a bowl of cold acidic water (lemon juice or vinegar both work well). Once they are all prepared, drain, rinse and steam until tender. A sharp pairing knife when inserted into the heart should have no resistance. Then drain and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Pat dry with paper towels before sautéing in the dish.
I make this recipe with fish fumet but you can use a good, pure, chicken stock as well. Preferably one that is home-made but if not, get one from the store that is not full of aromatics such as carrots and celery. Swanson is a good one or Rachael Ray’s (I’m not a big fan of hers, but she has a good product so I will forgive her inane chatter and use it when I find it.)
So make Halibut and Forbidden Rice in a Saffron Cream Jus for company, or just when you want to impress yourself.
Cut fish into 4 pieces, remove any bones and skin. Season with salt and pepper.Place saffron threads in a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon wine, let sit.Prepare black rice according to package directions. Keep warm.
In a medium frying pan, heat the oil and butter until hot, but not smoking. Add the fish pieces, cook, turning once, until just opaque. Remove from pan and keep warm. Add artichoke hearts, shallot and garlic to the pan, saute until just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the wine (or vermouth), deglaze the pan, allow to reduce by 1/2. Pour the saffron mixture into the fish fumet or chicken broth, add to pan, allow to simmer 3minutes. Mix the cornstarch with the cream, add to pan and allow to simmer until thickened.
In individual large warmed bowls, place a mound of rice in the center, place the halibut on top; put artichoke quarters around and pour sauce around the outside of the rice.
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