Special of the Day: The Fire Within Aspire Award Winner Janet Neil

28 Apr Special of the Day: The Fire Within Aspire Award Winner Janet Neil

Janet Neil garnishing the plate for the Almond-encrusted Halibut with Mango Salsa

Janet Neil garnishing the plate for the Almond-encrusted Halibut with Mango Salsa

 How fun it was to see The Fire Within awards given to two women I admire so much at the annual event held the last Thursday in March. The Fire Within event began in March of 2011, to honor women business owners. They sure picked some winners this year!

Janet Neil, owner of Bert & Ernie’s, and Penny Rubner, owner of Penny’s Gourmet to Go, were honored this year for their professional achievement, business leadership, and involvement in and impact on our community.

Rebecca Engum, Small Business Development Center Director explained that The Fire Within event is designed to honor all women business owners as well as provide an opportunity for women business owners to connect with other women business owners and to celebrate start-ups, Aspire and Inspire award winners.

The Aspire award is given to a woman who has been in business for less than five years and went to Janet Neil this year. Janet bought Bert & Ernie’s Restaurant from Phil Kiser in November of 2011. She smiled when I asked her about buying the restaurant, saying she was really in the honeymoon phase the first year. She has continued to work tirelessly since then to make Bert &Ernie’s the best it can be and to make a positive impact on our community.

Engum called Janet “a fresh young force in the business landscape of Great Falls who has willingly stepped into a community leadership role.” Engum went on to say that Janet operates and manages her business well, focuses on professional development for herself and for all of her staff, is an active member of the community and contributes to making a difference where she can.

Janet was more than a little surprised when Rebecca came to tell her she had won the Aspire Award. Rebecca had arranged a meeting with Janet to discuss some up-and-coming additions Janet is looking to do to Bert and Ernie’s. When Janet opened the door she had flowers and a huge hug for her.

Janet said she was thrilled and humbled and pretty much in shock when she found out she had won. She asked Engum if she was serious a couple of times and kept giving her hugs.

“It means the world to me, I am truly honored,” Janet said, “I would have never in a million years have thought I would win this award.’

From the very beginning of Bert and Ernie’s Janet has constantly asked herself,   “Am I making it? Am I getting anywhere? Am I doing this right?” She has always been looking for some sort of internal confirmation.

For Janet, this award tells her that she is on the right path. At the same time it raises the level of expectations that she has on herself,  making her want to work even harder so that she feels worthy of the honor. “I feel very blessed to be doing what I love every single day, and I want to encourage anyone to take the leap. You absolutely never know what life holds for you.”

With congratulations to Janet Neil comes this week’s Special of the Day column honors The Fire Within Aspire Award Winner Janet Neil and her recipe for Almond-Encrusted Halibut with Mango Salsa. Enjoy!

Almond Encrusted Halibut with Mango Salsa

Recipe by Janet Neil, Bert & Ernie’s

Almond-encrusted Halibut with Mango Salsa

Almond-encrusted Halibut with Mango Salsa

Servings: 4  

Suggest using 8 oz. Halibut

Mango Salsa

2 Cups Mangos – Diced

1/2 Cup minced red bell pepper

1/4 Cup red onion- Diced

1 tsp minced garlic

1/4 Cup Minced Cilantro

1 Jalapeno – minced- deseeded

2 TBLS fresh squeezed lime juice

1 tsp sugar – depending sweetness of mangos

Season to taste with salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients together and let the flavors marinate for a least a 1/2 hour. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed

Almond-Panko Crust

1 Cup of Almonds

2 Cup Panko

1 TBLS Parsley

1 tsp Granulated Garlic

1 tsp Salt

Combine in food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.

Breading Station

Step 1: Seasoned Flour: 1 Cup Flour & 1 tsp sea salt and black pepper

Step 2: Egg Wash: 2 Eggs & 2 TBLS water

Step 3: Almond-Panko Topping

Coat the top side only of the halibut

Sear almond-panko side of halibut in butter.

Almond-encrusted halibut heading to finish in the oven
Almond-encrusted halibut heading to finish in the oven

When golden brown flip and finish in the oven. Depending on the thickness of the halibut it may take another 3-5 minutes at 375.

Top halibut with mango salsa.

Garnish halibut with sprig of fresh cilantro and a lime wedge or twist.

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.

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