While my daughter and I loved traveling around Barcelona, we were horrified to learn that breakfast was served with boiled bacon. I couldn’t imagine that I would boil bacon for any reason, let alone to eat the flabby opaque strips of curly pork. But Julia Child did it, and who am I to question her? So I took a page out of her “book” and recently did it myself, albeit for a different reason. Ever since I watched Eric Ripert braise celery - a fairly anonymous ingredient I thought - I’ve wanted to try it. Glad I did. It’s the best bite of celery I’ve ever had.
In full disclosure, you can also use Iberico ham in place of the bacon to braise celery, but at $70-$100 or more per pound, I found that to be even more of an abomination.
2 cups filtered water
10 ounces smoked bacon
4-5 cloves of garlic
3-4 scallions, lightest part
6 full celery stalks - not just the hearts
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons roasted pistachios, chopped finely
2 filets Halibut
In a saucepan on medium heat, bring the bacon slices, scallions and garlic to a boil in the water.
Let the mixture cook down, uncovered until it’s reduced by about half.
Cut the root and leaves off the celery stalks. Using a peeler, remove the stringy parts of the celery. Then cut them in half on the bias.
Place the celery into the saucepan, making sure that the celery is covered.
Reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least 10 minutes, testing with a knife to make sure it’s tender but not mushy.
Remove the celery carefully and place onto a clean kitchen towel.
If what’s left of the broth is thick enough for a light sauce, great. If not, turn the heat up a bit and cook it down some more.
In a non-stick fry pan, melt the butter over medium heat until it starts to brown just a little. Add the oil, making sure the whole pan is coated.
Don’t salt the fish, the broth provides enough.
Place the fish top side down into the pan and let cook for about 5 minutes.
Turn over the fish, and add the celery to the pan, concave side down.
The thickness of your Halibut will determine how long you cook it on each side. But I cooked the second side and the celery for about 3 minutes.
Don’t skip this caramelizing step on the celery - it makes a huge difference.
Plate a piece of Halibut on top of half the celery.
Drizzle some of the reduced broth over the fish and celery and top with the pistachios and some of the celery leaves.
Julia and Eric were right. Their inspiration is all over this lovely dish.
So I toasted them with an equally lovely wine. The Clos St Michel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, 2018. Highly tannic red wines tend to exaggerate the salt in dishes - not needed here. And a wine that’s too crisp might be a great palate cleanser, but won’t really complement the dish.
If you ever get to Barcelona, I wouldn’t recommend eating the boiled bacon, but you might want to see what they can do with the water they used.
(p.s. You won’t want to eat the bacon that you’ve used in the braising liquid. It’s been boiled to within an inch of its life. Even Barcelona bacon is better.)