Chef Billy Hager’s Recipe for Pollock with Farro, Delicata Squash, and Romesco

Or, if pollock is unavailable, the Helm Oyster Bar chef likes hake, haddock, or cod.

Pollock with Farro, Delicata Squash, and Romesco
By Alexandra Hall
Photographed and prepared by Derek Bissonnette
From our December 2023 issue

“A big focus for us is fish that aren’t always the most popular choices,” Hagar says. “Up and down the East Coast are places that don’t serve a lot of what the Gulf of Maine has to offer. We try to use as much of all of it as we can.” Monkfish and hake are regulars on his rotating menus, as is pollock. (His preferred supplier is South Portland’s SoPo Seafood — “They’re terrific about sourcing high-quality fish there,” he says.) In this dish, Hagar pairs light, flaky pollock with a bright, roasty red-pepper sauce.

Serves 6

For the pollock

  • 3 pounds pollock (8 portions of 6 ounces)
  • salt
  • 8 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 8 lemon wedges
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • fresh parsley, chopped

For the romesco

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1  cup slivered almonds
  • 2  teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 New Mexico chilies, stems and seeds removed
  • 10 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1  onion, sliced
  • 2  medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers, charred and then peeled (can be jarred)
  • 8 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 slices sourdough bread, torn into pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons salt

For the farro

  • 3 cups pearled farro
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, sliced
  • about 20 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
  • zest of 1 lemon

For the squash

  • 8 delicata squash, halved longways with seeds removed
  • olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon

Directions

Prep: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the fish with salt, and place thyme sprigs on top. Set aside.

Romesco: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, add the olive oil and almonds and toast until fragrant. Add the coriander seeds and chilies and toast until fragrant. Add the garlic, onion, carrot, pepper, tomatoes, and bread and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the water and cook for about 20 minutes, until

the almonds are tender. In a blender, puree the sauce in small batches. Season with sherry vinegar and salt to taste. Return to a saucepan to be warmed just before serving. (It may need to be loosened with a bit of water.)

Farro: Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the farro and bay leaves. Bring the water back to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium. Cook the farro until tender, 10–15 minutes.

Squash: While the farro is cooking, lay the halves on a tray, season with salt, and drizzle with oil. Then, roast in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until tender. Slice and sprinkle with lemon zest to taste. Cover with tinfoil to keep warm.

Farro: Once the farro is done cooking, strain. Preheat a sauté pan to medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the shallots and garlic. Sauté until translucent. Add farro to the pan and sauté for 3–5 minutes. Turn off heat and add the thyme and lemon zest. Cover to keep warm.

Fish: In a steamer, cook the fish until tender, 5–6 minutes.

Serve: Spoon the sauce onto plates. Spoon the farro on top of the sauce, keeping a small ring of sauce visible. Lay the squash and the fish side by side on the farro. Squeeze a lemon wedge and drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the entire dish. Garnish with parsley.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

Get all of our latest stories delivered straight to your mailbox every month. Subscribe to Down East magazine.