Halibut is a favorite of many seafood lovers because of its mild flavor. The meat has a firm, large flake. I suggest pan searing halibut rather than grilling it. If you decide to grill it, remove filets from the grill when still slightly undercooked and cover with foil for several minutes before serving; the retained heat will allow the fish to finish cooking while keeping it moist and tender.
One of my favorite go-to sauces is a fresh sage chiffonade with brown butter and toasted almonds. Don’t let the fancy name fool you—if you can melt butter you can handle this simple recipe. Remember, “Always ‘Stay Legal,’ and never take more than you’ll eat.”
— Trevor Cook, Scuba Chef
4 halibut filets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted sweet cream butter
Sea salt and white pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted sweet cream butter
6 to 8 fresh sage leaves
¼ cup slivered almonds
Sea salt and white pepper
Rinse halibut filets and pat dry with a paper towel. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil and butter. Season halibut and lightly dust with flour, and then carefully lay into the hot sauté pan, cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
In a small saucepan over low heat, add one stick of butter. Pull the fresh sage leaves from the stem, rinse and pat dry. Stack sage leaves from largest to smallest and roll lengthwise into a tight cylinder. Using a sharp chef’s knife cut the leaves crosswise into very narrow ribbons. These ribbons are known as chiffonade. The butter should be melted and beginning to bubble, add the slivered almonds and gently stir, continue to cook until the butter solids begin to brown. Add sage and cook for another few minutes. Spoon sauce over sautéed halibut. Serve with mashed potatoes and wilted spinach and enjoy.
Crisp California whites will enhance halibut’s subtle flavors without overpowering it. Try Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris), or dry Riesling.
Family: Bothidae (Left-eyed flounders)
Genus and Species: Paralichthys californicus
Description: The body of the California halibut is oblong and compressed. The head is small and the mouth large. Although a member of the left-eyed flounder family, about 40 percent of California halibut have their eyes on the right side. The color is dark brown to black on the eyed side and white on the blind side. Their numerous teeth, very large mouth and a high arch in the middle of the “top” side above the pectoral fin make them easily distinguishable from other flatfish.
Range: California halibut occur from Magdalena Bay, Baja California, to the Quillayute River, British Columbia. A separate population occurs in the upper Gulf of California.
Natural History: California halibut feed almost exclusively upon anchovies and similar small fishes. At times they are observed jumping clear of the water as they make passes at anchovy schools near the surface. Males first mature when two to three years of age, but females do not mature until age four or five. A five year-old fish averages 11 to 17 inches in length. Spawning takes place in relatively shallow water during the months of April through July.
Fishing Information: Spearfishers and anglers pursue California halibut throughout the year but the best landings usually occur in the spring. In central and northern California fishing and hunting is best in summer and early fall, when California halibut move into shallower water to spawn. Size and catch limits are the same for anglers and hunters, but vary from one region to the next, so be sure to abide by the limits in your area. For more information about California Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) visit your dive center, local bait or bait and tackle shop, or go to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife web site, www.dfg.ca.gov.
Other Common Names: flatty, fly swatter (small), barn door (large), alabato, Monterey halibut, chicken halibut, southern halibut.
Habitat: Shallow Sandy Environment
Source: California Department of Fish and Wildlife www.dfg.ca.gov