This was one of those meals that I had on the menu week after week, but it kept getting pushed back for various reasons.  Busy day at work, too tired, kids rough, etc. etc.  You know how it goes.  I think the title and appearance of this meal made it seem much more involved than it actually is, and so it was easy to excuse away.  Finally I decided enough was enough and this meal was going to happen, darn it.  And you know what?  Let’s break it down: Cajun seasoning blend for the fish – very easy, takes seconds to whip up.  Dirty rice – sauté the mix-ins, stir in the rice and liquid, and cook.  Easy.  Praline sauce – toast pecans, cook sugar and water, mix in remaining ingredients.  Voilà!

It’s not all that complicated but it is delicious.  The combination of components may seem a bit strange but they all come together to make a wonderful meal.  I’ve been coming around to savory dishes with sweet accompaniments and this dish got me even closer to loving the idea.  The contrast of the sweet topping with the spicy fish and savory rice somehow just works.  Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.  Just don’t put it off as long as I did.

Ingredients

For the dirty rice:
1 link Italian sausage, casing removed
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup diced onion
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup long grain white rice
1½ cups low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped scallions

For the praline sauce:
½ cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Pinch of coarse salt
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. whiskey (or apple juice)

For the fish:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tbsp. fresh thyme
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4 halibut fillets (about 6 oz. each)

Directions

  • 01

    Preheat the grill to medium-high.

  • 02

    To make the dirty rice, crumble the sausage into a skillet or large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook until starting to brown, 2-3 minutes.  Stir in the olive oil, onion, bell pepper and garlic.  Cook until just softened, 2-3 minutes more.  Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute.  Mix in the broth.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper.  Stir in the scallions.  Fluff with a fork and serve.

  • 03

    While the rice is cooking, make the praline sauce.  Toast the pecans in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.  Transfer the pecans to a plate and set aside.  Return the pan to medium heat.  Combine the sugar and water, bring to a simmer, lower the heat and cook until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the toasted pecans and salt, and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and whiskey until smooth.  The sauce may thicken upon standing, but can be rewarmed over low heat.

  • 04

    To prepare the fish, combine the oil, paprika, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to blend.  Pat the mixture over both sides of the fish.

  • 05

    Oil the grates of the grill.  Grill until the fish is cooked through and the fillets release easily, about 3 minutes per side.  Serve over the dirty rice and topped with the warm praline sauce.

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