blackened halibut with crab sauce

August 26, 2006


Week before last we scored a free halibut charter with a group from the office and headed down to Seward, Alaska, a little fishing town on the Kenai Peninsula. Charter boats usually go out with 6 fisherman, a captain, and a mate. A place on the boat usually costs $150 to $300, and that plus the day off from work, the gas for the trip down, and all the sundry expenses add up. You either catch enough fish to make it worthwhile, or you end up eating $30/pound filets. Halibut fishing in Alaska is serious business, a welcome chance to fill the freezer with something besides salmon. Trust me, by December or so all those lovely orange filets in the freezer start to look less like treasure and more like a duty. I can hear it now:

What’s for dinner, honey?
Well, we’ve only had salmon twice this week so, let’s have salmon
Bullshit, you killed ’em all, you eat ’em. I’m ordering a pizza…

Halibut are large, bottom-dwelling flatfish, very similar to sole or flounder. By large I mean the ones we throw back are 20 pounds; by large I mean that some of these guys would completely cover your kitchen table. We didn’t boat anything nearly that size, but did get a few in the 75-90 pound range, which was more than enough for us. You have to pull these guys off the bottom 200 feet down, and it’s a lot of work. The per-person limit in most waters here is only two, so you do want the larger size for the quantity of meat. The trade off is that the smaller fish actaully have the better meat, and even more important to me, are less likely to have worms. I generally strive for a worm-free dining experience.
Halibut filets are usually thick with a tough skin on the bottom. The meat is white and flaky if cooked properly, and this fish cooks fast. It’s easy to overcook it, and then it’s dry and a bit chewy. I cook it for about 3 minutes on a side for a piece that’s two inches thick. Since halibut can be so large, it’s fairly easy to find thick steaks and filets, or even pieces cut as 5 or 8 pound roast. You’re on your own trying to decide the cooking time for one of those. Unlike our fresh salmon, Halibut has very little fat or fish flavor, and lends itself well to sauces and marinades of all types. My favorite halibut is usually blackened – fast, easy, and goes as well with a rich sauce as it does over a salad.

The filets I like are about 2 inches at the thickest point. Halibut usually has a skin side, and I cut this off with the sharpest knife I can find. You certainly don’t have to, but I want spicy Cajun goodness on both sides – I’m greedy that way. If your knife isn’t dangerously sharp, just leave the skin on or you’ll end up hacking the fish up – the stuff is tough enough to make boots with.
1 tbs toasted ground cumin seeds
2 tbs paprika
1.5 tbs sea salt
1 tbs onion powder
1 tbs garlic powder
2 tbs cayenne
1 tbs white pepper
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp oregano

I make this up ahead of time and use it for lots of things, not just fish. This recipe makes several cups, and it’s a lot cheaper and better than that swill sweaty old Emeril is hawking on the Food Network. I coat the fish in olive oil and the press it down onto a plate thickly dusted with the spice mix. I do this on each side until there is a substantial buildup of blackening on the fish. Some of it is going to fall off during the cooking, so don’t be shy. Heat a bit of grapeseed or peanut oil (not olive) in the heaviest skillet you have. Let that sucker get hot, and the slap the halibut down. You want it to blacken and sizzle and just barely burn those spices abit, so resist the urge to move it around or flip it just yet. Cook it for two minutes, then flip it and play the B side for another minute and a half or so.

3 tbs butter
2 cloves garlic, minced sliced
2-3 ounces lump crabmeat
1 cup fish stock
1cup heavy cream
1+ tsp of the blackening mix
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sherry
salt to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stir in garlic and cook till translucent. Add the crabmeat and stir for 3-4 minutes, slowly add fish stock, cream, and blackening, reduce till the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in the sherry, mustard and parsley, salt to taste and serve immediately.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michelle October 20, 2006 at

Wow, that looks like a killer halibut recipe. I’m going to try it this weekend.

2 salmonsucks March 2, 2008 at

the seasoning is amazing

3 cassandra June 7, 2009 at

great recipe. tried it tonight – even the “i hate fish” teenager *loved* it AND had seconds!! thanks!

4 Janne July 11, 2009 at

I have to give it to ya. The spicy cajun blackening seasoning is the bomb!!!Thks

5 Janne July 12, 2009 at

OH MY GOD, this is SUPERRR…My 10 year old had seconds so did my 11 yrold.

6 Mini August 31, 2009 at

Such a beautiful sauce….. Thanks for the receipe, I made it with fresh pasta (goat’s cheese and red pepper girasole) it was a match made in heaven…
Can’t stop thinking about it….. Thank you!!!

7 Kevin April 19, 2011 at

Awesome. Made it with salmon! Seared it two minutes a side and the 5 minutes in oven at 350 since it was not quite done. Also used 6 oz of crab meat. Modified fish sauce to 1 tbsp fish sauce and 1/2 cup chicken stock. Served with rice to soak up the great flavor.

8 Susi July 13, 2012 at

Really good!

9 KRISTINE January 4, 2014 at

It’s awesome! Definitely worth trying..

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