Halibut with Lemon Butter and Crispy Shallots

GH0421H_halibut-with-lemon-butter-and-crispy-shallots_s4x3_lgHalibut is a flatfish, genus Hippoglossus, from the family of the right-eye flounders (Pleuronectidae).  The name is derived from haly (holy) and butt (flat fish), for its popularity on Catholic holy days.  Halibut are demersal fish which live in the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans.  The halibut is the largest flat fish, averaging 24–30 lb, but have been reported as large as 730 lbs.

At birth, they have an eye on each side of the head, and swim like a salmon. After six months, one eye migrates to the other side, making them look more like flounder. At the same time, the stationary-eyed side darkens to match the top side, while the other side remains white. This color scheme disguises halibut from above (blending with the ocean floor) and from below (blending into the light from the sky) and is known as countershading.

Eaten fresh, the meat has a clean taste and requires little seasoning. It is ultra low in fat.  Halibut is noted for its dense and firm texture.

Halibut have historically been an important food source to Native Americans and Canadian First Nations, and continue to be a key element to many coastal subsistence economies. Accommodating the competing interests of commercial, sport, and subsistence users is a challenge.

The Atlantic population is so depleted through overfishing, it may be declared an endangered species. According to Seafood Watch, consumers should avoid Atlantic halibut.  Most halibut eaten on the East Coast of the United States are from the Pacific.

In 2012 sportfishermen in Cook Inlet reported increased instances of a condition known as “mushy halibut syndrome”. The meat of affected fish has a “jelly-like” consistency. When cooked it does not flake in the normal manner of halibut but rather falls apart. The meat is still perfectly safe to eat but the appearance and consistency are considered unappetizing. The exact cause of the condition is unknown but may be related to a change in diet.

Halibut is among my favorite fish both to eat and to cook.  The recipe  below is adapted from a superb recipe from Giada de Laurentis, one of my favorite chefs.

Halibut with Lemon Butter and Crispy Shallots

Ingredients

Lemon Butter:

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

Halibut and Crispy Shallots:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 halibut fillets (each 4 to 5 ounces)
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
2 large shallots, cut into rounds, separated into rings
Lemon wedges, for garnish

Directions

For the lemon butter: Whisk together the lemon juice, salt, pepper, lemon zest and butter in a deep medium bowl until well blended (mixture will be like a thick sauce). Set aside until ready to use.

For the halibut and crispy shallots: Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in an 8-by-8-by-2-inch glass dish. Whisk the marinade to blend. Add the halibut and turn several times to coat evenly. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes.

Combine the grapeseed oil and shallots in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until the oil heats up and the shallots turn golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the shallots with a slotted spoon to several layers of paper towels to drain and crisp. Sprinkle with salt and pepper just before using.

Heat a large dry nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lift the halibut from the marinade, letting the excess drain off. Add the halibut to the hot skillet and sear 3 minutes. Turn the fish over using a flexible metal spatula. Sear until still slightly pink in the center, about 3 minutes longer, depending on thickness. Transfer the halibut to plates. Top with a generous dollop of lemon-butter and pile the shallots alongside or scatter around the fish. Garnish with the lemon wedges and serve.

Source:  Food Network

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