Recipe: Grilled fish with leeks and olive sauce

me I had never really appreciated shallots as a vegetable—as opposed to an aromatic flavor—until I ate them with vinaigrette in Paris during my college year abroad.

In a small café that was halfway between my two studio apartments near Porte Saint-Martin and walking on the seventh floor of my closest friends near the Seine, we spent our evenings drinking bottles of red wine and working our way through the very classic menu: Croque Madames, Herbie Escargots. Offs mayonnaise.

The leek vinaigrette was the biggest surprise. The cute balls looked simple on the plate—pale, monochromatic, unadorned with any herbs or garnishes—but they hit us between the eyes. It was covered in a spicy Dijon sauce that made sinuses burn; We couldn’t get enough. So we added more mustard bowl on the table, then wiped the oily stains with torn pieces of baguette. It gave us the stability for long walks home during the cold Paris night.

Back in New York, I tried making a leek vinaigrette that was just as sharp and vibrant, but the flavor was hard to match. The mustard I can get my hands on didn’t have the same boring morsel.

Instead, to mimic this pungent and light game, I began pairing silken leeks with other seasonings and sauces. The green sauce, with its mix of citruses, chopped herbs, and plenty of raw garlic, was a perfect partner, balancing the sweetness of the shallots with a tangy taste. Shallot green salsa has become a staple in my kitchen, as a vital alternative to shallot vinegar.

In this more substantial variation, shallots and green sauce are rounded off with quick-cooking fish fillets.

I especially like the taste of white fillets like cod, halibut or hake here, as they can really absorb the complexity and brightness of the salsa sauce. But salmon or tuna may also work, giving the mixture more richness.

And to make this weekend night as friendly as possible, I roast the fish and leeks together in one skillet. As they cook, the leeks closest to the filet absorb their liquid, turning soft and crunchy while the edges near the edges of the pan become delightfully brown and crunchy in spots.

Topped with a green sauce speckled with olives, it’s an equally mellow and hearty dish in which sweet springtime leek can shine through in winter.

Grilled fish with shallots and olives in a green sauce

by: Melissa Clark

serve: 4

total time: 30 minutes


For fish and leeks:

4 thick slices of white fish, such as cod or halibut (total 680g)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 medium leeks, trimmed, white and light green, halved lengthwise and rinsed well

Extra virgin olive oil

For green olive sauce:

1 lemon

90gm coarsely chopped Castelvetrano olives

10g finely chopped coriander leaves and stems

1 garlic clove, finely grated, minced or pressed through a garlic press

Pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste

Fine sea or table salt

80 ml extra virgin olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 220 ° C. Season the fish with salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the shallots.

2. Cut the leeks into matchsticks: Lay half of the leeks, flat side down, on a cutting board and cut in half crosswise. Then cut the pieces lengthwise into thin (½ cm) matchsticks. Repeat with the remaining balls.

3. Spread shallots on an inverted baking tray. Lightly sprinkle with oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Push the leeks aside to create 4 spaces in the middle of the pan large enough for the fish fillets, then place the fillets in these empty spaces (avoid placing fish on top of the leeks, which will not cook well if covered).

4. Spray the fish with oil. Roast until fish is opaque and cooked through but not yet flakes, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The shallots surrounding the fish will be soft and silky, while those on the edges of the pan may turn pleasantly brown and brittle in spots. If the fish is done but you think the leeks need more time, transfer the fish to a serving dish, tent it with tin foil to keep warm, and continue cooking the leeks for a few more minutes.

5. While the fish is in the oven, make the green sauce: Using a small rasp grater, grate ½ teaspoon lemon peel into a small bowl. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze it into a tablespoon of the juice.

6. Add olives, coriander, garlic, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Slowly spray in the oil, stirring until combined. Taste and add more salt, red pepper flakes or other lemon juice, if needed.

7. Place the fish on plates and surround it with shallots. Top with green olive sauce.

And to drink…

White fish, such as halibut and cod, tend to be neutral compounds for sauces and other flavors. In this recipe, that includes delicious shallots and green chutney. Both call for a crisp, non-oak white wine, with the acidity vital to chopping and complementing the olives in the sauce. This would include Loire sauvignon blancs with herbal and citrus flavors rather than the glamorous New Zealand style, village Chablis or other restricted chardannays, and fine albarinis from northwest Spain. You can also try a Corsican dish, several good Italian eggs, and maybe even a Groener Feltliner from Austria. If you have a taste for sherry, try the fino or manzanilla, which are made with olives and seafood.

Pairing from Eric Asimov.

© New York times

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