Tonight’s smackdown: Pan-seared striped bass with yellow-pepper hominy and poblano vinaigrette, courtesy of Bobby Flay’s new Mesa Grill cookbook. Except that the striped bass was really halibut.
This recipe is full of great flavor, with the sweet gentle heat and touch of acid in the poblano vinaigrette both cutting through and complementing the yellow pepper hominy. The fish sits perfectly between the two and its delicacy is a nice contrast to the slightly coarse texture of the hominy; this recipe wouldn’t be nearly as yummy with chicken, pork or beef. We had to stop ourselves from eating all the hominy right from the pot, so lured were we by all the sharp local cheddar that got mixed into it.
The whole dish came together really quickly, and would have been even faster had the insane cold not stopped us from torching the peppers en masse on the grill. For the yellow peppers, I’d image that jarred roasted peppers packed in oil would be a serviceable substitute, although the red peppers you usually find would make for some pink hominy. In any case, any dish that starts by filling the house with the heavenly twin smells of roasting peppers and onions sauteeing in olive oil is okay by me.
The yellow pepper is pureed smooth, and then processed quickly with some canned hominy, which I have to confess I thought would be kinda gross, having always assumed that one would purchase hominy in a dried form. I normally blend or process things beyond what is actually necessary for textural or structural purposes, but I paid attention to the warning in the recipe that excessive processing would make the hominy “gluey” and held myself back. Diced yellow pepper stirred in afterward looked almost like corn kernels; had I not made the hominy myself, I don’t know that I would have known it wasn’t.
The veggie puree + canned hominy combo is a tasty, colorful and quick side dish, and a nice diversion from potatoes and root vegetables in the winter.. I’m envisioning a honey-ancho roast pork loin with some caramelized winter squash hominy in my future.
As all good grits or grit-like foods are, the puree-and-hominy mixture is heavily fortified with cream and cheese, along with the onions and garlic that had been sauteeing in the pot. Add lots of black pepper, salt to taste, and try not to finish the whole pot with your tasting spoon while you pull the fish and vinaigrette together.
The poblanos are roasted along with the yellow peppers, and then go into a blender with some red wine vinegar, honey, garlic and oil. The resulting vinaigrette stays nicely emulsified and is a lovely pale green color. Even half a batch made way more than we could use for this meal, but I don’t think we’ll have a problem putting the rest to good use.
The fish cooked up in a cast-iron pan while we put the finished touches on the sauce and side. Then, while grabbing the cheddar out of the fridge, I saw some chorizo lazing around with nothing to do, calling out to be a spicy, smoky garnish. So I granted its wish. It had made a wise choice, and lent a pleasant chewiness to the final product, along with its flavor and bright color.
I am not a food stylist.
I know that food looks more stylish on simple white plate. I also know that Fiestaware is colorful and festive (duh.) and can be dropped from a height without shattering, which is a big thing I look for in dishware.
Once all the components are assembled, put them on a plate as you will. We scrounged through the cabinets trying to find the top to a plastic squeezy bottle so we could make an elegant drizzle of vinaigrette. My plate just had a puddle of vinaigrette next to the fish and hominy, and tasted just as good.
Final score: Us 1, Food 0.
Recipe: A++, would do business with again.
Pan-roasted halibut with yellow pepper hominy and poblano vinaigrette for 2
adapted from Bobby Flay’s Mesa Gill Cookbook
For the yellow-pepper hominy:
2 yellow peppers
1 15oz. can of hominy
1 small onion
4-5 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 oz sharp cheddar
Roast the peppers according the the method of your choice. Whir one in a food processor until smooth, dice the other and set aside. Drain the hominy and add it to the processor; whir until the hominy is coarsely ground but is not yet a smooth paste (the book recommended 5, but it took me about 12 pulses; maybe I’m too quick on the pulse button).
In a pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until just translucent. Pour the pepper/hominy mix into the pot and add the cream. Bring the mix up to heat and let cook to your desired thickness. Stir in the cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste.
For the poblano vinaigrette:
2 poblano peppers
1 big squeeze honey
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (although I think I would use white next time)
1/4 c neutral oil (although I think I might use regular olive oil next time)
Throw everything into a blender or processor. Whiz until smooth. If it’s too thick (e.g., you had some big honking peppers), add some water.
For the fish:
2 filets firm, white fish of your choosing. The original recipe uses striped bass; our halibut was great.
Season with salt and pepper. Fry that shit up in a pan ’til it’s done.