Tuesday, September 21, 2010
halibut fish sticks
the Dutch touch
When we were in Denali National Park over Labor Day, one morning we rode the bus from our campsite at Teklanika past Polychrome Pass, then asked the bus driver to let us off so we could go for a hike. A young Dutch couple also left the bus at the same time, and we chatted a bit before we went our separate ways. They were headed out for an all-day hike, sure to reach the top of some of the nearby peaks. Dan and Meredith and I would mostly stick to the gravelly river banks, with only a little steep traversing and scree slope descents, and we would also catch the bus back not long after our picnic lunch. Although we wouldn’t get a chance to hike together, Bianca and Nathan seemed like lovely people, so we invited them to come over for drinks and snacks in the evening when they returned from their hike.
Sure enough, they were out all day, but came to our campsite afterward and we shared Alaskan carrots, potato chips, and wine. We had a delightful evening, and got to hear about their adventures in Alaska so far, and the places they still planned to visit on the remainder of their three-week vacation. They were really getting all over the state—including McCarthy, Denali, Granite Tors, Chena Hot Springs, and they were headed for the Kenai next. They would come back to Anchorage to stay in a hotel on their last night before they flew home, so we told them to call us when they returned and we’d pick them up and have them over for dinner.
We were pleased that they took us up on our offer, and enjoyed their company for dinner on their last night in Alaska. As we were talking about Holland, I remembered a couple of Meredith’s books about ice skating—they are both set in the Netherlands.
One book, called A Day on Skates, is a nostalgic story of a group of school children skating on the frozen canals. Our favorite is called The Greatest Skating Race, a World War II story from the Netherlands. It tells all about the Elfstedentocht (the Eleven Towns Race), which can only be held in those winters that are very cold—cold enough to freeze the canals that connect eleven towns in northern Holland.
So we asked Bianca and Nathan when was the last time the canals had frozen hard enough to hold the Elfstedentocht, and they looked at us with surprise that we knew of the race. They thought back, and were able to remember:1997. When they asked how we knew about it, Dan answered glibly “Oh, it’s no surprise, Dutch culture has completely permeated Alaska.” I was cracking up, remembering a favorite saying of Dan’s Dutch-American friend, Bernd: “If it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much.”
When they came over for dinner, I wanted to make a nice Alaskan-themed meal… how about making fish sticks out of the halibut that Dan and Meredith caught earlier in the summer? I served the fish with my favorite green salad: the one with peaches, almonds, and a honey-balsamic vinaigrette.
halibut fish sticks
Here’s one of my favorite things to do with halibut. It’s fantastic when the fish is fresh, but it’s also great with frozen fish. My mom used to make this a lot, except she didn’t use quite as much garlic, so use your own judgment. For a summertime feast, serve great mounds of these fish sticks accompanied by a huge bowl of peach-almond salad with honey-balsamic dressing, depending on what fruit is in season. You won’t even need dessert—just eat more salad!
skinless halibut fillets, cut into finger-sized pieces or a bit larger
canola or light olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt
whole wheat bread slices, stale or fresh (but not dried hard), processed in a food processor into bread crumbs. I like to use whole-wheat sourdough bread from our Rise & Shine bakery, but any hearty bread will do.
lemon, cut into wedges
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Crush 4 or 5 garlic cloves into a shallow bowl. Add a ½ teaspoon or so of salt and mash it into the garlic with a fork. Add about a ½ cup of oil and stir until well-combined.
3. Pour a cup or so of the bread crumbs into another shallow bowl.
4. Using a fork, dunk each halibut piece into the garlicky oil, drain for a second, then drop it into the bread crumb bowl. Coat thoroughly with bread crumbs and transfer to a baking sheet.
5. As you run out of oil and bread crumbs, refill the bowls and keep going (you don’t need to add more garlic and salt—just refill the oil and mix well).
6. Bake the halibut for about 7 or 8 minutes, just until the fish flakes. This will depend on how thick the pieces are. Don’t overcook them, or they will be dry.
7. Serve with lemon wedges and a big salad.