Haddock with Citrus Slaw and Orange Vinaigrette

February 12, 2016

Start to finish: 30 minutes
Hands on time: 30 minutes

The night this recipe was born I told my husband that we would probably drop a kilo or two after eating this spa-like meal. It’s February and we’re still trying to get a handle on what happened to our waistlines after the crazy holidays. It’s tough to get outside and exercise this time of year so a meal this beautiful and healthy fits our vegetable and lean protein regime perfectly.

At the market that day, the haddock was looking especially fresh. Glistening and wild, it spoke to me. But orange roughy, grouper, mahi mahi or cod could have been employed just as easily in this recipe. Since fresh isn’t always obvious to the naked eye, don’t hesitate to ask the fishmonger to point out the most recent arrivals. A few years ago I was a contributor to a fish cookbook and after focusing on cooking seafood for a sustained period of time, the old adage about using only the freshest fish became shockingly relevant. It was possible to make the most delicious meals very simply using the freshest fish but whenever I purchased less fresh specimens, those recipes ended up lackluster. It really, really is all about the quality of the fish.

Speaking of fresh, there probably isn’t a more robustly available winter vegetable than cabbage. I’m crazy about cabbage and slaw is the most versatile to me, especially when paired with citrus, my other obsession. I used cara cara oranges here because I love their color and flavor but any old orange will do. The citrusy slaw is gorgeous with shades of purple, green, orange and pink. Oh, and remember to slice the veggies as thinly as possible or the vinaigrette will not flavor the slaw as it should. If you prefer, you can let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes and the vinaigrette will break down and soften the vegetables if they are tough. However, I prefer my slaw on the crunchy side.

All that chewing, you know… exercise.

It’s that easy: Inexpensive and versatile, rice vinegar is a staple in my pantry and it should be in yours as well. Because it isn’t as acidic as regular vinegar (about the same as lime juice) you don’t have to use as much oil when whisking together a vinaigrette, saving you a few calories there. I think the flavor goes really well with citrus and it doesn’t overpower like many vinegars can. I also add a few drops to soups and stews along with the salt and pepper and find it helps bring their flavors up front and center.

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons lime juice
Pinch sugar
Zest of one orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup thinly sliced savoy cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1 carrot, grated
1 jalapeno, minced
2 Cara Cara or navel oranges, one zested (above) and both peeled and sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1 lb haddock

Combine the rice vinegar, lime juice, sugar, zest and a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl and stir to dissolve. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Taste and season with more salt if it needs it. It should be fairly tart. Remove about 1 tablespoon and set it aside.

Add the cabbages, carrot, jalapeno, all but a few slices of orange (reserve as a garnish), fennel and cilantro to the bowl of dressing and toss to combine. Set aside.

Preheat the broiler and arrange the rack on the second highest placement.

Salt and pepper the fish. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining olive oil. When it shimmers, add the fish to the pan (it should sizzle) and cook for 2 minutes without moving it. Transfer the pan to the broiler and cook for another 3 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and flakes with a fork. This may take a minute or two longer if using a thicker type of fish.

Divide the slaw and fish between two plates. Drizzle the fish with the remaining vinaigrette and top with a few orange slices.

Extra hungry? Add a microwaveable bag of frozen rice. There are some pretty tasty ones at my grocery store in an array of flavors. It’s the perfect extendable dinner solution.

In the glass: With all the citrus, a lean Sauvignon Blanc from Kim Crawford sounds sublime.

In my ears: Long Goodbye

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