Rich, elaborate meals can be welcome at the holiday season; after a few, though, sometimes we all need a break. This stylish dinner party for six is a relaxing change of pace that shows off the lighter side of winter flavors.
In our main course, halibut pieces are roasted on a bed of sea salt and winter herbs ― a fresh adaptation of the classic technique of baking a whole fish in salt.
Purchase roasted red peppers and olives for an easy appetizer; while guests nibble, the scent of warm herbs will perfume your home.
The fish is done in just 20 minutes; bring the whole dish to the table for a beautiful presentation, and complement it with golden saffron orzo and roasted kale accented with preserved lemon. A salad of fennel and oranges and a red-gold compote of dried cherries and apricots complete the meal.
In this menu
This menu lets guests watch (or help) you put the finishing touches on the meal. Here's how to time it for maximum effect.
A day or two ahead: Make apricot-cherry compote.
The afternoon of the party: Rinse halibut and herbs; put salt in baking dish; make herb oil; measure ingredients for orzo; chop kale and coat with oil (step 1).
Shortly before guests arrive: Make fennel-orange salad; soak saffron for orzo; heat oven to 450°; set out purchased appetizers.
About 40 minutes before serving: Heat salt in oven.
About 30 minutes before serving: Sauté shallots and toast orzo (step 2); brown fish (step 2).
About 20 minutes before serving: Scatter herbs over hot salt, top with fish, and roast; put kale in oven; finish cooking orzo (step 3).
Just before serving: Drizzle a little extra olive oil over salad; stir lemons into kale; spoon orzo into a serving dish.