Though you might normally associate chimichurri with grilled steaks, lamb chops and other robust cuts of meat, this garlicky South American herb sauce pairs wonderfully with mild halibut and other lean white fish. Rubbed over the fillets before baking, the flavor of the chimichurri stays fresh and bright, infusing the delicate fish with a pop of green color and taste that says SPRING! It's another simple yet impressive fish recipe to add to your repertoire.
This recipe was born out of boredom. Last spring I was cooking for clients who requested fish several times a week and, after pondering what seemed like the millionth piece of seared halibut in some kind of sauce, I decided to rub the fish in the beautiful chimichurri sauce my co-worker had just mixed up and bake it instead. The resulting fish was lovely: light, delicate and deeply infused with the taste of fresh herbs.
To recreate it, I adapted the chimichurri recipe created by my former co-worker — the talented Sarah of La Femme Epicure — keeping the cilantro because I love it and toning down the garlic, which can overpower the mild fish. The sauce comes together quickly in a small food processor, although you can chop it up by hand if you need to, and it can be made up to one day ahead if necessary. Its robust flavor seasons the fish as it cooks, and a final dollop before serving adds a bit of zing.
This is a beautiful and quick main dish for spring entertaining, as well as a healthy, weeknight-friendly dinner. And if you or your guests are keeping an eye on seafood sustainability, know that wild-caught Alaskan halibut is rated a "Best Choice" by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. Serve it with roasted, smashed potatoes and a crunchy salad for a fresh and satisfying meal.
For the chimichurri: 3 cloves garlic 1 small shallot 1 cup parsley 1/4 cup cilantro 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons water 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning fish
1 1/2 pounds halibut, cut into 4 portions
Combine all the chimichurri ingredients in a small food processor and blend until smooth. (Alternatively, you can finely chop the garlic, shallot and herbs by hand. Mix with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.) Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly season the fish with a little salt. Rub all sides of each piece of fish with about 1 tablespoon of the chimichurri and place in a baking dish. Reserve the remaining sauce for serving.
Bake for 12-20 minutes — depending on the thickness of the fish — or until fish is firm and almost opaque all the way through. Serve with a little of the reserved chimichurri sauce spooned over each piece.
If you can't find halibut, substitute another mild, lean white fish like cod. (You may need to adjust the cooking time based on the thickness of the fish.)