Gluten-Free with PMD: Seared Opaka Over Lentils

By P.M. DEVLIN

Living in the Mountains, I don’t normally get my hands on seafood worth its weight. But when I do, its worth is generally weighty.

That’s why, perusing the aisles of Pattee Creek Market, I was pleasantly surprised when I approached the seafood counter. The inspiration for this dish is the very reasonably priced and quite nice fillets of wild-caught Opaka that just couldn’t not come home with me.

Opaka is a fairly large Hawaiian fish that is in the snapper family. It has firm white flesh, is not overly fishy tasting, and best of all, leaves room in your budget for something a little bit tastier than Barefoot Wine.

For this dish you will need:

  • Enough portions of Opaka to feed the family. Just ask the guy or gal behind the counter to cut a larger piece of fish into portions, which are usually about four-tenths of a pound.
  • Marinade: Juice of one whole orange, three tablespoons of tamari wheat-free soy sauce, a few shakes of rice wine vinegar, three sizable squirts of Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce, and a few fresh grinds of black pepper.
  • Green or black lentil beans
  • One can of chicken broth
  • Enough stalks of kale to feed the diners
  • A small amount of cheap white wine
  • As always fresh garlic
  • Ground cumin
  • Shallots
  • Butter
  • Cornstarch

Let’s get started.

A few hours before meal time, combine the ingredients of the marinade in a gallon zip-lock back and give it a few good shakes, wash your portions of fish with cold water, pad dry with paper towels, be sure to skor the skin side, and add to the bag. Stash in the fridge.

The lentils will need ample time to cook, around an hour and a half I’d say. Choose an appropriate pot – I like a large enamel Dutch oven. Wash your beans with warm water in a strainer to get some starch out of them and place them in the pot covered with water about an inch and a half over the beans.

You will want to add finely diced shallots; a few shakes of salt and some pepper, cover, and allow to cook over medium low heat. The beans will use up this moisture, at which point you can start adding the chicken stock. They are done when they are tender, but still al dente when sampled.

When nearly done, salt and pepper to taste, add whatever herbs you have around, I like rosemary or parsley, and two tablespoons of ground cumin. This really richens the flavor. Put the burner on the lowest setting and leave covered.

Preheat oven to 370 degrees. (I don’t know anyone who has an oven that is measured in degrees Celsius… )

Wash and chop your kale – I like to leave the stem for some crunch – and sauté down in a pan with olive oil and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste.

Now we are ready to cook the fish. Put an oven-safe skillet (read: iron) on the stove over high-ish heat and throw in a few pads of butter and equal amounts olive oil. Pull the fish out of the marinade, hit with a little additional salt and cracked pepper on the non-skin side, and add to the hot skillet, skin side up.

The marinade will become our sauce. Most people have preclusions about consuming marinade. That is really only true when working with chicken. Simply dump it into a medium saucepan over medium heat and add a pad of butter to bring it together. Allow to reduce.

After about three to four minutes in the butter, the portions should be crispy. Flip them carefully, and add right to the hot oven. It is nearly dinnertime!

Allow to cook in oven, skin side down for 5-10 minutes depending on thickness of your particular fish. In should feel like a medium-rare cut of meat when it is ready. Now finish the kale greens with a few splashes of wine, which will cook down quickly and liven them up. Once your fish is ready, pull it out of the oven and allow to rest while you finish the sauce. I like to add a few more squirts of hot sauce. You will also need to add a small amount of cornstarch dissolved in COLD water to thicken the sauce.

Grab some plates, and start by spooning some of your lentil beans onto the plate. Mash them down with the convex side of the spoon so they appear aboutpancake-sized.

Now add your beautifully cooked Opaka, skin down or up. It seems trendy to serve crispy skin up but I like the look of the fish skin down. Drizzle with a healthy amount of sauce. Lastly, grab a small-ish portion of the greens and form a tower over the center of the fish.

Enjoy this gluten-free creation with a cold glass of white wine.

******************

Matt Devlin Fish It Missoula BioMatt Devlin is a fishing guide in Missoula MT.  He enjoys dry flies, “floating with the bros”, attempting to get his labradoodle to chase tennis balls, andwriting.