Unique recipes for Alaskan Halibut

proscuitto wrapped halibut

While I haven’t posted in awhile, I have not stopped cooking and eating halibut at home and in my travels.  I’m down to less than 10 packs of halibut in my freezer and I’m having to prioritize my ideas and postpone some dishes until after my next Alaska fishing trip.  I will say that some of the best halibut dishes were in the last few weeks, so I will catch you up on the latest dishes as I head toward the end of my halibut cache.

This dish was the result of a rainy day here in Denver, when we originally were thinking of grilling outside but the weather did not cooperate.  I had grilled halibut last year in Alaska with a slice of lightly grilled prosciutto placed on top; it was a simple preparation with a clean straightforward flavor- fish and slightly salty prosciutto.  To translate this to an indoor preparation, I decided to wrap the fillets with the prosciutto and cook them in a very hot oven.  I had some garlic and chili oil that I planned to drizzle on top for some added flavor and moisture.

This was a light summer meal and easy to prepare, but I was wishing for more of a sauce to accompany the fish- a lemon and white wine or even hollandaise sauce would have been welcome to tie the dish together.  I served it with sautéed peas and radishes, and an arugula and parmesan salad.  Dessert was mixed berries macerated with homemade limoncello.  Perhaps because the halibut was cooked in an oven and was missing the smoky flavor from grilling over wood, it was a good dish but not a great one. I would definitely add a sauce to elevate it to the next flavor level.

Halibut Ravioli

Halibut Ravioli

Ravioli have always been my family’s favorite meal and the most frequently requested dish for a birthday or any celebration.  Traditionally, Italian mothers would use leftover bits of chicken, pork, or other meats and blend them with cheese, breadcrumbs, spinach, or other ingredients to make a filling. They would pocket the filling in freshly made pasta and lightly sauce the dish creating an incredible meal out of leftovers and a few simple pantry ingredients.  In my hometown of Butte, Montana the raviolis are made of beef and cheese, possibly due to the fact that the Italian immigrants had to use what ingredients were easily available, and Montana is beef country.  The sauce was either red or white: a marinara or a butter and cheese sauce .

The beauty of a hand made ravioli is that the taste is balanced between the fresh pasta and the filling, while the sauce is used judiciously so as not to overpower the dish.  Why not a halibut ravioli filling?  I made a filling out of halibut cubes lightly cooked in butter and blended with bread crumbs soaked in cream, parsley, a small amount of parmesan cheese, and egg yolks to help bind it together.  The filling was delicious and I had to stop tasting it so I would have enough for the raviolis.  I had taught myself how to make pasta years ago from the excellent directions in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and I still use the same recipe to this day.  I sauced the ravioli with softened butter thinned with a little pasta water, and topped the dish with arugula, toasted pine nuts, and a light sprinkling of parmesan on the arugula.

This dish was beautiful on the plate and demonstrated an simple elegance in the mouth.  Why have I not seen more halibut ravioli on menus?  I definitely will be serving it at my next dinner party where I’m confident it will be a big hit. The filling was light and moist with a delicate halibut, cream, and parsley flavor and no hint of fishiness.  With the soft pasta and soft filling, the peppery arugula and toasted pine nuts added dimension and texture.  While I usually don’t like cheese with fish, in this dish it was quite pleasant.

This is my new number one halibut recipe (yes, it has knocked chipotle halibut tamales from the top spot); if you already make ravioli, add this filling to your recipe box, and if you have never made pasta, teach yourself and try this filling.  Its impressive and I predict that when you make it, your family and friends will request it again and again.

Skordalia Crusted Halibut

Skordalia Crusted Halibut

Skordalia is an incredibly tasty Greek dip/sauce made with almonds, lemon, garlic, olive oil, and day old bread or boiled potatoes.  It can be served as a dip for pita chips or crudité or as a sauce for chicken, shrimp, or numerous vegetables or proteins.  My Greek sister-in-law, Despina makes the ultimate and best skordalia.  When she makes it, I put it on everything- vegetables, bread, meat, in fact I’ll skip dessert just to eat more baquette with skordalia.   It’s surprising that not as well known as other Mediterranean spreads such as hummus or babagnoush, because I think its more tasty than them. Obviously I love skordalia!  Recently we enjoyed a meal together of lamb and roasted potatoes all slathered with skordalia and savored with a few bottles of surprisingly good Greek white wine.  Over dessert, we brainstormed about using skordalia in my halibut project and came up with a skordalia crusted halibut.

I couldn’t replicate the exact taste of her skordalia (she doesn’t use a recipe), but I found one that is pretty close and I adjusted the amount of liquid to make more of a paste consistency so as to adhere to the fish better.  I don’t like covering a crusted fish with a sauce as it makes the crust soggy, so instead I choose a carrot fettuccine with a lemon cream sauce for a side dish.  The sauce is napped on the bottom of the plate and can flavor each bite while maintaining the crispy crust on top.  Steamed artichokes dipped in skordalia (of course) completed the meal.

This was a restaurant quality crusted fish- the bread, lemon, garlic, and almond flavor all came through in the crust.  I set the timer to prevent overcooking the fish- 3 minutes on first side and then 2 minutes on other side and a 5 minute rest period (remember its 5 minutes per inch for frozen fish as compared to 7 minutes per inch for fresh).  It was cooked perfectly- moist and flavorful throughout and each crispy bite was enhanced by the light lemon cream sauce.  I made the skordalia and cooked the artichokes in the morning, and only had to cook the fish and carrot fettuccine 15 minutes before we ate.  A healthy tasty quick and easy to prepare meal perfect for during the week.  My husband rated it in his top 5 halibut recipes.  And I have leftover skordalia to last a few more days…..maybe grilled skordalia shrimp?


Halibut Balls in Spicy Red Sauce

The halibut drought is over!  After the holidays and during the cold winter months, I found I was craving hearty slow cooked meals based on beef and pork instead of fish.  My son experienced the same “halibut fatigue” with his frozen halibut cache, however now with the warmer sunnier days (at least here in Denver), I think we are both anticipating the homeward stretch of the halibut recipes.

I had watched an episode on the cooking channel a few weeks ago about an Italian American grandma in Brooklyn whose specialty is a Sicilian swordfish ball served with red gravy.  A halibut ball was a logical substitution for me.  I knew the thawed halibut would have a higher water content and be moister than the swordfish, so I used less water to soak the fresh breadcrumbs in than the original recipe, and I did coat each halibut ball in flour before browning in oil.  They crisped up easily in the hot oil before they finished cooking in the sauce.  I made my usual red sauce with a hefty dose of red pepper flakes that gives it a very spicy heat level, but you can adjust the heat by using less if desired.

The texture of the meatballs is surprisingly light and fluffy, and by cooking them in the sauce, they remain moist and tender. The halibut balls have a faint lemon, garlic, and parsley flavor with not a hint of fishiness. I would serve this dish to people who think they don’t like fish, as I’m confident they would convert to fish lovers- it’s that good. The spicy tomato sauce adds another flavor dimension that enhances the halibut balls.  I served this over spaghetti and  with a side salad.  Another winner dish that makes me wonder why I needed a break from halibut…..

Halibut with Huckleberry Sauce

Halibut with Huckleberry Sauce

Last August while in Butte, Montana for the An Re Ra Irish Festival, I was walking through the nearby farmers market and came across fresh huckleberries.  Huckleberries grow wild in the Northwest, including western Montana and are a smallish dark purple berry that has been compared to a blueberry, however the taste is a unique blend of sweet dark berries and mouth puckering tartness.  I bought all that was left, graciously allowing my sister to buy two bags for herself, and planned to make huckleberry jam with my purple hoard of berries.  The best jams start with fresh ripe fruit and this jam surpassed all expectations.  It was sweet, full of berry flavor, and had the bracing acidity that is the hallmark of huckleberries; my daughter said it tastes like a huckleberry sweet tart which was the best description of huckleberry jam I’ve come across.

I have eaten Alaskan salmon with a huckleberry sauce but have never had it with halibut, but it made sense to use these two Northwest flavors together.  I had a perfect packet of halibut that was exactly one inch thick and about the perfect serving size for two people, so it was time to try pan searing again.  Based on my past experience of reducing the cooking time by 30% for frozen fillets, I calculated it should only take 5 minutes to cook.  I pan seared one side on top of the stove for 2 minutes and then turned the fillets and let them cook the remaining 3 minutes in a 450 degree oven.  They still looked raw in the center (perfect!), but after sitting to rest for 10 minutes, they were perfectly cooked.  I used a timer to be exact in my cooking times and feel that helped to conquer my fear of overcooking the fish.

The sauce was a modified gastrique sauce.  As huckleberries are both tart and sweet, instead of adding an acidic vinegar to the jam, I used white wine and then added warm flavors with ginger and allspice.  The sauce was both tart and sweet and fruity, but the wine tamed those flavors and it was a surprisingly balanced sauce.  I served the fish with Tuscan kale sautéed with bacon, garlic, and onions and also drizzled lightly with the huckleberry sauce.  I served an Arneis wine from Piedmont with the meal and also used it in the sauce.

If you’re not fortunate enough to live where there are huckleberries, you can order the jam on line or even buy jars of jam and syrup in major airports in the Pacific Northwest.  Any way you obtain the jam, try it on halibut and savor the results.