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It’s A Wrap

Calm down. This dish of potato-wrapped halibut may look tricky, but it’s a lot easier than you think. But you’re going to need a mandoline – the kitchen kind – not the kind you use as musical accompaniment to “O Sole Mio.”  The key to this dish is cutting the potatoes thinly enough – and it’s nearly impossible to do that without a mandoline. Even with the mandoline, the first time I tried this, I didn’t have the setting thin enough and the potatoes refused to hug the fish the way they were meant to. The ornery little slices were too thick and had minds of their own, and I ended up sticking toothpicks in them just to get them to stay put. The second trick to this dish is to NOT soak the potato slices in water. You might be tempted to, thinking they won’t discolor that way. But what happens is that they’ll start to release some of their starch in the water – starch that they’ll need to stick to each other. And if you work quickly, the potato slices won’t discolor anyway. Here’s how to make this simple dish. I’ve made it with halibut and with sea bass, but you could use any firm-fleshed white fish you like – cod also comes to mind. It needs to be fairly thick in size, so forget about flounder or sole or something equally thin and delicate. For two people, I used a piece of fish that weighed about 3/4 pound or so and one potato – scrubbed but unpeeled. Take the skin off the fish – or have the fish monger do it for you before bringing it home. Sprinkle the fish pieces with salt, pepper and any herb you like. In this case, the herbs in the garden were still on their winter nap, so I used dried dill. Slice the potato very, very thinly with the mandoline. April 2010 198 Start to overlap slices over one of the pieces of fish – they’ll sort of remind you of fish scales. April 2010 199 Then flip it over and wrap the potato slices up and over the fish. April 2010 200 Cover any gaps with more potatoes and bring the slices up and over to meet and greet each other. April 2010 201 Press them gently together. If you have time, put the whole thing in the fridge for an hour. (I didn’t do this and had no problems, but if you’ve never made this dish, this step could make your life easier.) April 2010 202 Repeat the procedure with the other piece of fish and remaining potato slices. April 2010 203 Heat a cast-iron skillet and melt some butter inside. You won’t need very much butter if you have a seasoned skillet. You could use a nonstick skillet too, but I prefer the cast iron.  Maybe you’ll use  2 T. butter at most for this entire thing. Use olive oil if you prefer. But not just plain old canola oil – you want the fat to impart some flavor and butter greases my wheel (or pan in this case) just right for this dish. Place the fish pieces gently into the skillet and adjust the flame or temperature of the burner if necessary. The temperature shouldn’t be so hot that the potatoes brown too quickly. You want the fish to cook through and if you brown the potatoes too quickly, then the fish will be raw in the middle. For this size of fish, the cooking time on each side was about three or four minutes. Let the slices brown before attempting to flip over. You want to flip these over only once – the less you handle the better your chances of keeping everything intact. April 2010 204 OK, flip over the fish – gently now – so you don’t mess up the nice pattern of potatoes. I also turned it over on the edges too, holding it between two spatulas, so those edges could cook and crisp up a little too. It’s a little hard to hold spatulas in both hands and take a photo too, so you’ll just have to imagine what that looks like. I know you can visualize. April 2010 205 I served it very simply with some lemon slices, but you could get fancier and make a sauce too. If you’ve got some aged balsamic vinegar, this would be a good time to crack it open and drizzle some on top. April 2010 206-1 But really, if you’ve got a good piece of buttery sea bass or halibut, all you need is a sprinkle of parsley and a squirt of lemon juice. Start to finish and you’re done in 30 minutes. April 2010 212

This Post Has 36 Comments
  1. Good Morning Linda! I'm so excited to try this, you explained it so well. I once saw the guy on A Lyon in the Kitchen do this on tv, I tried to recreate it with a purple potato wrapped around the fish, it was a disaster it didn't fold around and I dyed my fish purple!
    I love the way yours turned out, I'm going to try it again, minus the purple potato!

  2. It's official. I'm in love with your recipes. This looks incredible and I'm going to try this as soon as I can get some decent halibut. Thanks so much for sharing this one with us. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  3. WOW Linda, I think the last time I saw something like this was on Top Chef (that episode at Le Bernadin!) I am definitely bookmarking this for future reference. The closest I've gotten to potato-crusted fish is the kind I make with instant potato buds (LOL)

  4. Gorgeous Linda! Simply gorgeous!
    I have to get over my mandoline fear since I cut off a large piece of my thumb playing around cutting no less a "fingerling potato"…it was not pretty. Well it was pretty… stupid…but this looks like a good enough reason to get it out of storage!
    That is a beautiful piece of Halibut you got there….
    I am making this for sure!
    Wonderful pics!
    L~xo

  5. Linda, you are so ambitious. This looks great. We had potato-crusted salmon at my wedding and it's a dish I love. Thanks again for sharing something wonderful. p.s. I love the expression "fish monger." Monger has such a specialized and at the same time poetic ring to it.

  6. This is a gorgeous dish – and I do love halibut. I won't even dare try this on company – I'll practice lots of times and devour it before I make it for anyone! (Such a hardship) It looks like a spring present.

  7. Wow! It looks absolutely perfect! I've never seen anything like this before, and I'm definitely going to have to try it. Thank you for the inspiration!

  8. Oh Linda, you've offered up a gorgeous dish and an easy lesson on how to wrap them in potato. I've seen a few recipes with this method and I'm eager to try it out.

  9. From time to time I visit my professional friends' blogs to see what's going on, what recipes they've come up with and I was completely impressed by the beautiful fish scale presentation of your halibut recipe. Really a beautiful dish. Have you tried putting a tail on it and a pea for an eye?
    Whimsical
    Anyway, Great work!

  10. Wow, I think I will try to do this. I do NOT have a mandoline, but I have a small hand grater thingy that has a slicer on the side, too small, but I might cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and try it. Do you think it will work with frozen flounder? All I have for awhile, except frozen shrimp. Hummm, wondering if I could use the shrimp? I experiment, but sometimes results are ugly. lol. I will be thrilled if mine comes even close to yours.

  11. Your potato wrap looks perfect. I haven't made this in a long time, thanks for the inspiration. I think lemon (and a little salt) is the perfect accompaniment, doesn't really need a sauce, and I love the combination of textures.
    LL

  12. This looks so beautiful, Linda! I just bought a new mandolin as my old one was getting a little dull so as soon as I buy some halibut I'd love to try this. I can imagine lots of nice herbs being placed under the potato slices..some rosemary perhpas?

  13. Linda!
    This is rally nice combination the presentation is just great! and it really looks quite simple. I love the idea of fish and potatoes prepared in any method. I can see a fork breaking through the potato right into the fish providing for great texture and taste, and you have browned them perfectly and I'm right there with you on the cast iron there is no substitute for some recipes and this is one of them!
    Grazie Linda!

  14. Absolutely beautiful, and it sounds delicious to boot! I've never seen anything like that before, I'm so intrigued I'm definitely going to try it out!

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