Vindaloo curry with parsnips and halibut

November 21, 2011 § 5 Comments

Yes, vindaloo with parsnips and halibut sounds, well, weird, for lack of a more graceful word.  But it tastes really quite amazing.  So, you should give it a chance.

It’s alternate name is fish-nip-aloo, which, of course, really makes it sound awesome.

Actually, I rather like the name fishnipaloo for the dish.  It’s quirky.  It sounds a bit like the name of a Bollywood dance, and that fits this particular curry incredibly well.

Picture a Bollywood dance, all brilliant colors and swirling action, bouncing, twirling, jingling, flinging.  Broken down it looks like barely controlled chaos, a mishmash of movements that seem slightly haphazard, certainly over the top.  And yet, as you watch it the pieces intertwine.  You see that it is beautiful, joyful, inspiring.  It works.

Same with this vindaloo.  Each of the pieces do not necessarily appear to suit one another.  (Parsnips in vindaloo?!  What next?  Lutefisk in tikka masala?!…Don’t tempt me.)  But, the end fusion of the ingredients is a wonderful balance of flavors that suit each other  to a T.

Vindaloo is often made with potatoes in it, which I must confess is not my favorite.  So, when I came across a recipe for vindaloo with sweet potatoes instead I was instantly interested.  But, as I thought about sweet root vegetables to go in a curry, I began to think about parsnips.  They have such a distinct loaminess to their sweetness, and I had an inkling that this might actually be a good partner for the earthy, warm, duskiness of the spices in the vindaloo – large spoonfuls of turmeric, coriander, cumin, and mustard seeds, plus pungent ginger, that you sautee with the onions and garlic just long enough to release their aroma.

I flatter myself that they did indeed turn out to be a wonderful match.

The parsnips cook up in this bath of flavors along with some tomatoes until they are tender, creamy, and a crazy yellow-orange (the color of some fall leaves in fact).  Then you add in some mellow, rich coconut milk softening the kick of the spices, and the color as well.

The halibut was also a wonderful addition, simmered in the vindaloo at the very end, just long enough to cook it through.  It is a light and flaky, yet meaty fish.  And, it too has a sweetness to it, a briny ocean answer to the parsnip’s earth.  Like surf and turf, but better, and less over-used for nondescript banquets at large functions.  Of course, you don’t have to use halibut.  You could also use another firm white fish, or chicken.  Or you could even make it vegetarian, just parsnip vindaloo, and serve it over brown rice or another whole grain and top it with with large spoonfuls of yogurt.  The abundance of spicy flavors will leave you happy any of these ways.

Oh, and on a side note, I do know that most people are writing about and thinking about and basically laser point focused on Thanksgiving right now (at least in the US), not on things like vindaloo.  It is, after all, the final countdown.  If you haven’t snapped up your Brussels sprouts or pumpkin puree yet, the grocery store may run out, I hear!  (These types of dire warnings that I get from people always make me really nervous.)

And, I’m thinking about it too.  But I read a fun article the other day about how we focus so much on the Thanksgiving menu that it seems almost as though we forget that we even need to eat in the rest of November.  Yet we do need to.

I love holidays.  I love to focus on holidays and carry out traditions and create beautiful holiday meals.  The holidays are about togetherness and joy and thankfulness, particularly this one.

But, all of those things are important on other days too. All of our meal planning should no more be relegated to the holiday than all our thankfulness should.  (I know I, for one, have far too much to be thankful for to quite fit it all into one day.)

So, in keeping with the ideas in that article, this is a recipe for the rest of November.  Sweet, spicy, soothing, oh so warming, and filling.  In the next couple of days while you’re preparing your cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie and other make ahead dishes, you can whip this up too.  The list of ingredients is long, but it comes together in a twinkling.  Easily enough to keep your eye on anything else you’re cooking up as well.

Vindaloo with Parsnips and Halibut (serves 4-6)

  • about 1 to 1 1/2 lb. parsnips, washed, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick coins
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. each of ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric and whole mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. chile garlic sauce (or a couple of minced chile peppers and another clove garlic)
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne (plus more if you wish to increase the spiciness)
  • 2 Tbs. lime juice
  • 1 (15 oz) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can of coconut milk (unsweetened)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. firm white fish, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  1. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat over medium high heat the butter until it is foaming.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened.  About 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the spices, the garlic, and the ginger and cook for one minute to release their fragrances.  Then add in the parsnips and stir to coat the parsnips well with all of the flavors.
  3. Add the lime juice, chile garlic sauce, and can of tomatoes.  Stir, then cover and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer and cook until the parsnips are nearly completely tender.
  4. While the parsnips are cooking, toss the fish pieces with the vinegar and 2 tsp. salt and let marinate in a bowl for 10 minutes,  then drain.
  5. When the parsnips are just about tender, add the marinated fish and the can of coconut milk to the pot.  Stir, and simmer until the pieces of fish are just cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Taste and add salt to taste.
  6. You can serve this over rice or accompanied by naan.  It’s nice with a sprinkling of cilantro and a scoop of plain yogurt.  Or, you can do as we did and just eat it as a soup.  Simple and delicious!

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