Making a point with Pan-Roasted Halibut

Roasted Halibut

This rarely happens.

Okay, it’s the beginning of halibut season on the west coast.

Okay. That happens every year this time of year. That’s not what I meant when I said, “this rarely happens”. I had something else in mind entirely, if you’ll just stay focused.

Because whenever it’s the beginning of halibut season you can bet your pretty butt I buy halibut. But I bet you do that too, so it seems I am digressing– fast.

What I am trying to say is– it’s the beginning of halibut season on the west coast (oh wait, did I already say that??)

Okay, may I start over? Thank you. It is the beginning of halibut season on the west coast. Oh, that is a strong jolt of deja  vu I am having right now. Oh no. No, it’s not deja vu; it’s me digressing again.

My real point is: halibut, when I see it; in season, wild caught, a Seafood Watch Best Choice. Well, I buy! That’s why there was a big hunk in my refrigerator.

Which brings me to the thing that rarely happens. See, I had a point to these ramblings all along!

halibut and lentilsI rarely buy something that is $16.99 a pound unless I have a plan for it. So this halibut is my version of a Paris Hilton’s Manolo Blahnik stilettos. It was an impulse buy. I felt I needed it. I felt it would finally be the thing that was missing in my life.

But what was really missing in my life was a plan! And by plan I mean a menu!

Rather than panic. I gathered myself. Most nights I make dinner up as I go along. Sure I have references and remembrances, and vague ideas of recipes I have seen on all your beautiful blogs. But in truth, I usually have no particular plan.

But at $16.99 a pound, well, frankly I just did not trust myself– but where to start developing a plan? I have a rather extensive collection of cookbooks. So I consulted them. But even then I was unsure where to start.

If you know halibut then you know the best comes from the Pacific Northwest of the United States and British Columbia, Canada. So I pulled out a cookbook called Food for all Seasons- Savory Recipes From The Pacific Northwest. It seemed a sensible place to start.

Roasted Halibut

Sure enough! This book had a nice looking recipe for Halibut Breaded with Hazelnuts and Lemon Verbena Sauce. While I have lemon verbena in the garden, I did not have hazelnuts. I could have used almonds I suppose, but like I said I wasn’t feeling extemporaneous.

So I turned my attention back to the bookcase. My eyes came upon Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen. Seattle. That’s in the Pacific Northwest. So I flipped to the index looked for roasted halibut? He had a recipe for Pan Roasted Halibut with Toasted Breadcrumb Salad and Green Lentils. Better yet, I had all the ingredients I needed except for thyme. But with fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and oregano I felt I could just adjust the recipe slightly to make up for my lack of fresh thyme. Despite the fact that I promised myself I wouldn’t, I could feel the urge to ad-lib swelling up inside me.

Wine Pairing

Maison William Fevre Chablis “Champs Royaux” 

Maison William Fevre Chablis "Champs Royaux"
Grant Henry

Price $20

Pairs well with chicken, fish, lobster, oysters, shrimp, vegetables.

In the end, instead of serving this with a parsley and breadcrumb salad in Tom Douglas’ version I simplified that element into a sort of breadcrumb gremolata. I changed a few other things too. Not enough to go into detail and not enough to change the spirit of Mr. Douglas’ terrific recipe. CLICK here if you’d like to print out my tweeked roasted halibut version.

Now if you don’t live on the west coast maybe you are unfamiliar with the divine bit a perfection that is itself halibut. Halibut are big fish. They resemble flounder in that their eyes are on one side (the right side), which always makes for a loopy looking fish in my opinion.

Good fresh halibut has a very ‘clean’ taste and requires little seasoning. Halibut is also noted for its very dense and firm texture, akin to chicken. It’s lower in fat than say salmon, so I like to cook it on the stove in a very hot pan and give it all of my attention.

The Pacific halibut fishery in North America is well maintained and monitored. Both the U.S. and Canada seem committed to keeping the population healthy. The halibut industry is a great example of international co-operation working to keep this delicious fish thriving and available. Its season runs from March to October.

However, the Atlantic population of halibut has been extremely depleted through overfishing. In fact that species of halibut may soon find its way onto the endangered species list. According to Seafood Watch, consumers should avoid Atlantic halibut. Almost all halibut available on the East coast is from the Pacific, but still ask questions and do not buy Atlantic halibut.

That’s all the preaching you are going to get from me. I believe my brother is pouring a Chablis tonight…

Pan Roasted Halibut with Herbed Lentils and Breadcrumbs serves 4 CLICK here for a printable Roasted Halibut recipe

  • 1 c french green lentils, picked over & rinsed
  • 1 1/2 t minced garlic
  • 1/4 c diced carrots
  • 1/4 c diced celery
  • 1/4 c diced onions
  • 1 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 2 t flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 t fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 t fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 T unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 c coarsley chopped fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 c loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • lemon vinaigrette (see recipe section)
  • 1 1/2 pounds halibut fillets, cut into 4 portions
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

pan roasted halibutTo prepare the lentils, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the lentils, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and set aside. Heat 2 T olive oil in a saucepan set over medium-high heat, add garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the carrots, celery and onions and cook, stirring for another 2 minutes. Add the lentils, chicken stock, and chopped herbs and bring to a boil. Add the butter, stirring until emulsified, and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

To make the breadcrumb mixture, heat 3 T olive oil over medium high-high heat in a saute pan, then add the breadcrumbs and pan-fry until golden and crunchy. Season with salt and pepper, remove from pan and let cool. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley leaves and lemon zest. Toss this with a little lemon vinaigrette right before serving.

To pan-roast the halibut, heat a large saute pan over high heat the remaining 2 T olive oil until nearly smoking. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Sear until golden brown on one side, 4–5 minutes. Flip and finsih cooking 2–3 more minutes.

To serve. Ladle the lentils into 4 wide, shallow bowls. Place the fish in the center of each bowl and top it with some of the dressed breadcrumb and parsley mixture. 


Greg Henry


Roasted Halibut