Esther’s halibut dinner



Photo by Keri White

My sister-in-law Esther lives on the Massachusetts coast, so she benefits from high-quality, uber-fresh fish.

The fishermen in her area previously catered primarily to restaurants and markets in the wholesale realm, but when the pandemic closed most of those establishments, these innovative chaps converted their business model to retail, selling out of a truck directly to customers.

Esther drives to the wharf when she has a hankering for fresh fish, and procures the best the North Atlantic can offer.

The halibut dinner here is a pretty classic sheet pan recipe with a fabulous green olive and herb topping. When I visited, Esther served it with roasted baby new potatoes and a bottle of rosé.

A note on the timing: To ensure that the new potatoes roast thoroughly, start them cooking at 400 degrees about an hour before you plan to serve the meal. Then, about 30 minutes into roasting, reduce the heat as directed to cook the halibut, but leave the potatoes in the oven. They will finish cooking in synchronicity with the fish, and dinner will be spectacular.

As far as dessert went, we brought some homemade chocolate chip cookies, and Esther had picked up some chocolates from a sweet shop nearby. This made for a relaxed end of the meal, but it could easily have been followed by something more elaborate — a seasonal fruit pie or tart would be particularly nice, as this dish highlights seasonal ingredients with the asparagus and parsley.

Esther’s Halibut

Serves 4

1 large bunch thin-stalked asparagus, tough ends removed
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bunch scallions, sliced
¾ cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
¼ cup chopped chives
Juice of 1½ lemons, divided
1 small handful parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 325 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Place the fish on the parchment, spritz it with the juice of ½ lemon, and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper. Strew the asparagus and scallions around the fish in a single layer. In a small measuring cup, mix the paprika, cayenne and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Drizzle this oil evenly over the fish and the vegetables on the sheet pan, and toss the vegetables to coat. Roast the fish in the oven for about 20 minutes, depending on thickness, until it is opaque throughout.

While the fish roasts, mix the remaining olive oil, chives, olives, juice of the remaining lemon, chopped parsley and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a small bowl. When the fish and vegetables are done, plate them, and top them with olive mixture.

Roasted Baby New Potatoes

Serves 4

This simple and classic preparation is a crowd pleaser and a breeze for the cook. Buying baby new potatoes means minimal effort — not even cutting them.

These are about the size of a walnut or a strawberry and require no work beyond a rinse and a quick toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. If you can’t find these little beauties, fingerlings are a good substitute.

If you can’t get your hands on these little ones, simply use your favorite varietal. Just cut them into bite-sized pieces and follow the recipe below.

You can’t really overcook these — they will crisp up beautifully if left in the oven. And they are dreamy leftover — either heated and served just like this, or tossed in a salad.

1½ pounds baby new potatoes rinsed well
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
Generous grinding of fresh cracked pepper

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Spread the potatoes onto the baking sheet, and toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper to coat. Roast the potatoes in the oven for 45-60 minutes.

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