Sparked by the ranchers and farmers in its small Sonoma County town, Backyard in Forestville, California, promotes the whole hog experience, buying locally raised meat and butchering in-house to serve with exclusively regional fare. So much that the modest, hacienda-style restaurant touts a Michelin star for its hyper-local, sustainable efforts on the dishes that are often plated on salvaged redwood.
A cornerstone of Pacific Coast seafood, chef Daniel Kedan tops his oven-roasted halibut — now officially in season — with a cider-soaked beurre blanc sauce and spices up delicata squash with a Basque French dried pepper (feel free to substitute cayenne pepper, if needed).
The cider he uses is from Golden State Cider, a fellow Sonoma County producer. The Save the Gravenstein cider honors the history of the eponymous apple and raises awareness for its diminishing plantings. According to Golden State’s website, the apple’s acreage in the Sebastopol area has decreased from 10,000 acres in 1940 to just 600 in 2019.
Farmed certified organic and fermented to dryness, this cider couples with the sweetness of the squash and richness of the halibut, but its bite of acid breaks through the opulence of the butter sauce and brings the dish together.
Pan-Seared Halibut with Cider Beurre Blanc
Makes 4 servings
Beurre Blanc Sauce
1 1/2 cups Golden State Cider Save the Gravenstein
1 shallot, diced
6 parsley stems
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1/4 cup Piment d’Espelette chili powder
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
2 small delicata squash, seeded and sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
4 (5-ounce) halibut fillets
Prepare the beurre blanc sauce: Combine cider, shallot, parsley stems, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce the mixture until the cider is well concentrated and only a small amount of liquid remains. Reduce the heat to medium, add the cream, and cook until the mixture is reduced to just over a tablespoon.
Slowly whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt. Strain. Keep warm over very low heat.
Prepare the squash: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the paprika, Piment d’Espelette, pepper, and salt in a small dish. Place the squash pieces in a large bowl and toss with the oil. Sprinkle on the spice mixture and toss to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 10 to 12 minutes until tender and lightly browned.
Meanwhile, prepare the halibut: In a large ovenproof skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, carefully place the fish fillets in the pan and sear until golden brown, about 1 minute. Transfer the skillet to the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the halibut is cooked through and flakes gently under pressure. Season to taste with salt.
To assemble, divide the squash equally between four plates. Place a piece of halibut on top. Drizzle the perimeter of each plate with the beurre blanc.
Excerpted from Tasting Cider © 2017 by Sip Publishing. Photography © by Antonis Achilleos. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.