I recently stumbled across a recipe I posted years ago for halibut with spring vegetables and risotto. Before kids, my husband and I cooked together most nights. And when I read this recipe, I got a craving not only for fresh halibut but for a chance to prove to myself that we could make something like this on a weekday with two children crowding the kitchen. The reason being that timing on this recipe is best if one person is grilling while the other is stirring the risotto.
I got lucky one beautiful spring night and jumped on making my risotto while the kids played outside. I also had a bunch of Swiss chard that had overwintered in the garden. My husband hopped on the grill and helped me pull this all together in less than 45 minutes.
This simple risotto is easy to make but does require attention. It’s worth it, though, to treat yourself to a grown-up version of macaroni and cheese — comforting, creamy and satisfying — that your kids will love, too.
I used Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus), the largest of all the flatfish. A properly cooked fillet of Atlantic halibut is up there with the best steak I’ve ever had. There’s something about the ribbons of fat in these East Coast flatties that could turn a cowboy into a fish lover. If you’re not lucky enough to be able to find fresh halibut, feel free to substitute anything local that can stand up to the grill.
1 1/2 pounds of halibut fillet
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Optional garnishes: parsley, lemon, chive, thyme and parmesan
Brush your halibut in olive oil to coat, then sprinkle with salt and set aside. Pour the broth into a pan and warm over medium-high heat, then keep warm on low.
In a large sauté pan, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onion and sauté until lightly browned. Add a little more olive oil and the arborio, turning the heat down to medium. Stir and cook until the rice is just starting to get translucent at the edges of the grain.
Add a ladle of broth and cook, stirring, until the rice mixture absorbs the liquid. Add another ladle of broth and repeat until the rice is cooked through. In a pinch, you can cook the risotto until it’s almost done and set it aside, partially covered. Then rewarm to serve with another splash of broth within 20 minutes. I discovered this is just enough time to clean the slugs off of my garden chard, then chop and steam it.
Start grilling your halibut when you’re about 25 minutes away from serving. After your grill is heated on high, oil the grill itself and cook the fish, top side down for 3-4 minutes to get a nice sear (skip this step if you’re not feeling confident in your grill maneuvering). Then turn the heat to low, flip the fillet to skin side down, close the cover and cook for another 15-20 minutes. This was a 3-inch-thick piece and took a good 20 minutes on low. You can check for doneness by peeking between the flakes.
When the risotto is cooked through, add the parmesan and stir to incorporate, then add the butter and serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon, some fresh herbs and more parmesan. I like to put my fish right on top.
I love the contrast of vinegar-dressed greens with the grilled fish and cheesy risotto.