Although halibut can be caught any time of the year, I think of them as summertime fish. The images that come to mind are of calm seas and sunshine and Gillie drifting in a light breeze over a bottom of reasonable depth, something around 5 to 20 fathoms. We look for “chickens,” the young 20 to 40 pound flatties that eagerly hit jigs, aren’t too much trouble in the boat, and fillet into firm white pieces perfect for the kitchen. Fired, baked, broiled or served as sashimi or in a soup, halibut are as versatile as any fish that swims. The thick fillets are just right for stuffing with shrimp, crab or, in this case a classic accompaniment, bleu cheese. Halibut cooked just right flakes beautifully. To achieve those moist flakes, avoid overcooking it. The meat is very rich. Barbra and I typically share a six to eight ounce fillet.
This is our favorite halibut recipe. In the photo, it is served on sautéed parsnips and saffron rice, but this works well as a sandwich, too. You don’t have to marinate the fillet… but you’ll be happy you did.
Panko Crusted Halibut with Bleu Cheese (for a 6 to 8 ounce fillet)
- 6 to 8 ounce halibut fillet, skin on, patted dry
- 1 heaping tablespoon all purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten, with a dollop each of soy sauce and Cholula mixed in
- panko in a shallow dish
- equal portions extra virgin olive oil and butter (about ⅛ inch in frying pan)
For the marinade: In a dish just large enough to hold the fillet, or in a small sealable plastic bag, mix together…
- ½ tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon Chulula
- juice from ½ lime (about 1 tablespoon or more)
- mesquite (for the smokiness) to taste
- a chipotle-type dry seasoning to taste
- ½ tablespoon brown sugar
- cold water (sufficient to completely cover fillet)
For the filling: Mix together while bacon is still warm…
- 1 strip thick-cut bacon, fried soft and cut into small pieces
- crumbled bleu cheese
- tarragon (just a hint)
- Use a very sharp knife to cut a pocket into the fillet, taking care not to cut all the way through the other side.
- Marinate the fillet in the refrigerator for 20 minutes up to about 2 hours. Remove and pat dry with paper towels.
- In a small frying pan, melt the butter into the olive oil over medium heat.
- Fill the fillet pocket with bleu cheese mixture.
- Spread the flour on a cutting board and roll the fillet so all sides are covered.
- Dip the fillet in the egg mixture to evenly coat.
- Roll the fillet in panko to thoroughly coat.
- The cooking oil is ready when a panko crumb placed into it bubbles and sizzles. Place the fillet in the frying pan skin side up. Make sure the fillet is sizzling, but that the oil is not so hot that the panko burns. Cover, reduce the heat a little, and cook for three minutes. Covering the fillet at this point helps ensure that the fish is properly cooked through. You might want to take a quick peak a couple of minutes into the cooking to make sure the panko is browning up properly.
- Remove lid and continue cooking for one minute. (Four minutes total per side).
- Carefully turn over the fillet so that it is now skin side down, presentation side up. Do not cover. Cook for four minutes. Adjust temperature as necessary to ensure panko is browning, not burning. Periodically spoon some of the oil-butter mixture onto the top of the fillet. Don’t worry if some of the filling melts out; it’s an indication that the fillet is cooked through. During the final minute of cooking, you may want to use tongs to hold the fillet so that the edges are properly browned.
- When serving, you can spoon a little of the oil-butter mixture onto the fillet and offer lemon wedges.
Each fillet serves one hearty appetite or can be cut into two portions. This dish pairs well with Chardonnay or a cold, crisp lager.