When your father lives in Alaska, and is feeling super generous, he will sometimes bless you by bringing you pounds and pounds of wild, freshly caught, flash-frozen and vacuum-packed fillets of gorgeous Alaskan salmon and halibut. Heck, as a bonus he might even throw in a bunch of lean, delicious caribou as well, if you're lucky (well, lucky me...).
In turn, you could then use this opportunity to justify to yourself the purchase of a big extra (Energystar) freezer just to store your newfound culinary wealth in. Once you have this taken care of, the only slight conundrum to this whole wonderful situation facing you is: you now have a freezer full of food and you must come up with enough recipes so that you don't get bored eating it.
We've actually finished off the caribou (see my caribou chili recipe here), and mostly decimated our stocks of both salmon and halibut. Recently, however, I was craving some of that remaining halibut and did a search on the Internet for recipes that 1) did not resemble something I had ever made with halibut before, and 2) contained mostly ingredients I had on hand or could substitute easily.
This is what I came up with: Individual spicy seafood potpies.
You can view the original recipe here, and my bastardized version is below. Even with all of my substitutions and odd way of putting it together, the finished dish still came out fabulously tasty - it's got just enough spice to add a bit of a bite, but not be too hot. We even ate the leftovers the next day for lunch with some crusty 10-seed whole grain bread (I'm usually very against eating fish the next day, but we've never had problems with our halibut or salmon getting that fishy, next-day flavor to it, so we do it often).
Individual spicy seafood potpies, adapted from Martha Stewart Living
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. salt
Combine in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, then cook for 2 minutes. Set aside (I didn't strain it either, but you can if you'd like). I did this because I didn't have the mussels called for in the orginal recipe, but still wanted the wine flavor and shallot in the end dish. Alternatively, and the smarter way, would be to add the shallot at the next step with the garlic and onions, and add the wine in the end when you're cooking the whole mixture (or after you saute the anchovies and let it cook down if you just want the alcohol flavor) but my brain didn't work quite so efficiently as this. So, do what you think is best, and read on.
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 28-oz. can of Italian plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Heat oil in a medium straight-sided saute pan over medium heat. Cook onions (you could add your shallots here instead) until soft, then add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the anchovy fillets, and cook them an additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly (you could add the wine here too). Raise the heat to medium high, and add the tomatoes (we used home-canned heirloom tomatoes, so I drained them, then added a bit of tomato puree to help keep the liquid and flavor up. Break them up a bit with your spoon, add the wine mixture, then stir in the red pepper flakes. Cook until the mixture becomes thickened, about 25 minutes. The original recipe calls for you to puree this mixture until smooth, but because I was missing most of the seafood, didn't do this because I wanted it to be chunky.
Heat your oven to 425 F. I used pre-made puff pastry shells (from the freezer section) instead of rounds cut from puff pastry to top off my potpies because I had some in the freezer left over from the Pumpkin-filled pastry shells with maple caramel syrup I made a while back. I just cooked the puff pastry shells according to the directions on the back, then spooned the finished potpie mixture into them. You can use whatever you'd like. If you're using the rounds, cook them separately according to the original recipe. You can either cook the potpie mixture in individual 6-oz ramekins, or what I did, in a large casserole dish, just be sure if you're cooking in ramekins to put a baking sheet underneath them in case they bubble out. I might actually use the ramekins next time, because the shells get a big soggy after they sit with the potpie mixture in them - but they were still really tasty, you just have to eat a little faster!
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 oz. of fresh halibut, skin removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
(I also added a small package of frozen shrimp to mine)
Add thyme and parsley to potpie mixture and season to taste. Stir in the halibut (and shrimp), and put it all in an oven-proof casserole dish. Bake until juicy and bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. To serve, spoon the potpie mixture onto/into the puff pastry shells, sprinkle with parsley, and add a green salad on the side. And even if you don't have any puff pastry, just eat it with some crusty bread and it's just as good. YUM!