Sunday, March 31, 2013

It's that time of year.......... 
Alaskan Halibut is here!

Spring has sprung and thoughts in the Pacific Northwest turn to halibut

Fishing has begun in this lucrative resource and soon fish lovers from around the world will 
Alaskan Halibut
again indulge in a true seafood delicacy. 

In this article I'll give you some fun facts (or "Fin-facts" as we call them in the restaurant) about halibut. Finally, we'll finish up with a great recipe that's sure to be a hit at home. 

Two-man fishing boat
Commercial fishing for halibut began back in the late 19th century. Large steam vessels would make their way to the fishing grounds, off load small, two man boats and fishing was laboriously done by hand.  A lot has changed since then due to the competitiveness of the fisherman. 

Today, small more agile boats are used, often carrying a crew of 4-5 anglers. These boats set out "strings" or long cables of line containing hundreds of baited hooks. The strings are allowed to "soak" or sit in the water for anywhere from 2 to 20 hours before they are hydraulically retrieved. Each strings catch can be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Small Fishing Boat

In the late 1990's, this valuable resource  became well managed.  Today, halibut season is not dictated by a calendar, it is defined by the total pounds caught.
Two Halibut Fishermen

Each fishing permit is allotted a specific number of pounds and when those pounds have been caught, your season is over. In 2013, the total quota for the entire season is 23,000 million pounds. Sounds like a lot but its much less than allowed in years past.

Halibut are know as flatfish and similar in nature to flounder. The are the largest of the flatfish and thought to be at the top of their food chain with only sea lions and orcas as their predators. They grow to an average size of 25-30 pounds with the largest fish on record tipping the scales at a whopping 763 ponds.

They are born with one eye on each side of its head. Then at six months, the begin to change. The top side of the fish darkens in color and the bottom side becomes snowy white. This is excellent camouflage for the fish. In addition, both eyes are now located on the top side of the fish and it begins to swim sideways through the water.

The meat of Alaskan Halibut is snow white in color. If your local fish counter is selling you halibut that has a slight yellow tinge, chances are it is from the North Atlantic
Halibut White Meat
and not of the same quality at Alaskan. The taste is sweet and clean and the texture is firm.  It is ideal for sautéing, baking, broiling and grilling.  About the only thing it's not good for is smoking because of it's low fat content

Here's a recipe I really enjoy with halibut. The subtle saltiness of the glaze pairs well with the natural sweetness of the fish. The title "Lacquered" refers to the sheen of the fish after the glaze has been applied

Enjoy the recipe and celebrate the season. Alaskan Halibut is here!

Chef Joe

Lacquered Alaskan

Yields 4 servings

4 portions Alaskan Halibut, 6-7 oz. each,skinless
Pinch kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 Tbl.  Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Soy Ginger Glaze (recipe follows)
4 Tbl.  Wasabi Cream (recipe follows)
Steamed White Rice
Fresh Vegetables of your choice (I prefer steamed broccoli rabe or sautéed spinach)

1) Start your charcoal grill and bring to medium heat. Clean and oil the grill grates well.

2) Lightly rub the halibut portions with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Place the fillets on the grill with the smooth side up and cook for 1-2 minutes. Using a spatula, pick up each fillet, turn 45 degrees and return to the grill. Cook for 1 minute.

3) Turn each fillet over and liberally baste with soy ginger glaze. Close the lid of the grill and cook for 2 minutes. Repeat the basting process, close the lid and cook again for 2 minutes. The fish should be firm to the touch.

4) Place a small mound of rice in the center of each dinner plate. Arrange the vegetables around the rice.

5) Place one fillet of halibut on each portion of rice. Garnish the plate by drizzling soy glaze and wasabi cream around the fish.

Soy Ginger Glaze
1 cup Light Soy Sauce
2 Tbl. Light Brown Sugar
1 Tbl. Fresh Ginger Root, minced
2 tsp. Cornstarch
1 Tbl. Water

Combine the soy sauce, sugar and ginger in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. While the soy mixture is heating, mix the cornstarch and water in a small cup. Stir until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. When the soy mixture has simmered, stir in the cornstarch and cook, while stirring, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat, strain and reserve the liquid.

Wasabi Cream

1/4 cup Dry Wasabi Powder
1/4 cup Cold Water
3 Tbl. Sour Cream
1 Tbl. Heavy Cream
1 Tbl. Mayonnaise

In a small bowl, blend the wasabi powder and water with a wire whip until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until all are incorporated.
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