Sara Mair's Halibut With Grapes And Fried Leeks

Carolyn cooks up Sara Mair's Season 3 dish!

This has to have been one of the most delicious dishes I've made in my whole life! I would make this dish again proudly. It belongs on the list of "clean plate club" recipes. Not a soul who ate this dish left anything behind for even my dogs to have a go at!

Cooking the Slab Bacon The first thing you have to do is make the "lardons." Lardons is the French expression for little delicious morsels of pan fried slab bacon. I love cooking lardons because it smells fabulous and you can always munch on one or two along the way!

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After I fried up the lardons, I set them aside to drain on paper towels and reserved the melted bacon fat for use in the sauce later.

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Frying the Leeks Frying the leeks was FUN! First you had to cut the leeks into thin julienne strips.

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Then I got the vegetable ready in a big sauce pan. I didn't have a candy thermometer, so I guessed on when the oil was hot enough by throwing one piece of the leeks in every once in a while to see when they started to fry properly. I definitely noticed that the batches I did towards the end came out just a wee bit crispier and more golden brown. Anyway, when the leeks were done, I set them aside on paper towels to drain and lightly salted them.

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Making the Sauce The sauce to this dish is sumptuous and was relatively easy to make. First I had to sautee the shallots. It seems like all good French-based dishes have shallots in the sauce!

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Then I deglazed the pan with the white wine, and added the seedless red grapes and the sauternes.

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(I actually used a Monbazillac - it's a sweet wine from right next door to the Sauternes region.)

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As the sauce continued to reduce, the grapes pop open and release their juices into the sauce, which is fun to see.

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After the sauce has reduced by about half, you need to puree it.

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This is where things got a little out of hand for me. I put the sauce in the blender, but it was still quite hot. I put the cover on the blender and hit the blend button, and the whole thing exploded literally in my face. It was a nightmare. I had hot sauce covering my entire kitchen as well as my face and arms. Fortunately, I was able to wipe off the sauce quickly and was not badly burned. Apparently what had happened was when the hot steamy sauce was spun, it created a ton of pressure in the blender literally blowing the top off. At the time I couldn't understand what I did wrong and the recipe did not warn me of this issue. I went back on-line and watched Lee Anne Wong make the dish on The Wong Way to Cook, and I noticed that when she blended the sauce, she left the little hole in the blender top open, presumably to let steam escape. I suspect this is key to making sure the sauce does not explode. Anyway, after I cleaned myself and my kitchen up, I still had enough sauce left to keep going. After blending the sauce, I didn't have the energy to pass it through a sieve, and it was relatively smooth as it was. I then whisked in the leftover bacon fat and the butter to create a truly delicious and unctuous sauce.

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Cooking the Halibut Making the Halibut was easy. All I had to do was take the pieces and cook them first skin side down in a large skillet, and then flip them, cook on the other side, and put in the oven to finish the cooking.

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Preparing the "Salad" Each of the fish pieces gets topped with a little "salad" that was easy to make. It consisted of the lardons, the fried leeks, red grapes cut in half and arugula which had been cut into a chiffonade.

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You just put all this in a bowl, toss and add some salt and pepper to taste.

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Plating the Dish Plating the dish was easy. I just put each piece of fish on a separate plate, spooned some of the sauce over the top and then dressed each plate with some of the "salad" on top of that.

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My Suggestions To Make This Amazing Dish Even Better: NONE! Just don't forget to keep the hole of the blender open when blending the sauce!!!!

Final Word On this Dish This dish rocked my world, and I'm not just talking about the exploding sauce. LOL. It was seriously one of the most delicious dishes I have ever cooked or even eaten out at a restaurant. According to the Cookbook, this grape sauce is classically French but is usually used over chicken. Well, after all was said and done, I had some sauce left over and made boneless chicken cutlets with mixed vegetables and poured this sauce over it, and that was amazing too. I also recommend making the fried leeks for use on other salads; they were so tasty and easy to make, and would add a kick to any normal green salad. So - final word - not only was this a great recipe, but different aspects of it such as the sauce and the fried leeks are quite versatile.

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