A Great Catch
By Neil Zevnik
Mild, delicious, and nutritious, learn why halibut makes a perfect summer meal.

Halibut has been around (and presumably happily consumed) for as long as humans have been snaring meals from the sea. These mild-tasting fish are the largest of all the flatfish—they can weigh up to 700 pounds! Since they don’t reach reproductive capability until they’re eight years old, they must be over 30 inches in length to be legally taken.

Even so, Atlantic halibut is seriously overfished, so be sure you buy only Pacific halibut; those coming from Alaska are especially desirable. They often dwell at great depths, and the cold water contributes to the plenitude of omega-3 fatty acids found in their largely bone-free flesh—another plus for finicky eaters at the dinner table.

We’re all familiar by now with the advantages of getting plenty of omega-3s in your diet, but let’s reiterate a few for when you need to convince that last recalcitrant red meat eater in the family. According to World’s Healthiest Foods (whfoods.org), omega-3 fatty acids make multiple and wide-ranging contributions to improved health. Cardiovascular benefits include helping to prevent irregular heart rhythms, reducing arterial clotting, and improving the ratio of “good” (HDL) cholesterol to “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, as well as reducing the inflammation that causes artery-clogging plaques. And many studies have demonstrated the ability of omega-3s to protect against numerous cancers, including colorectal, ovarian, kidney, and digestive tract. Equally gratifying is a body of research that demonstrates the contributions of omega-3s to the fight against cognitive decline, conceivably helping to stave off and minimize the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

But omega-3s are not the only benefit that can be gleaned from the delicate flesh of halibut. Vitamins B6 and B12 guard against atherosclerosis; magnesium improves the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body; and selenium is helpful in detoxifying the liver, as well as preventing cancer and heart disease.

Bringing It on Home

Halibut season runs from March through October, so you should be able to find it fresh most of the year. Be sure the fish is recently arrived; ask to give it a quick smell—it should remind you of the sea. If there is any whiff of ammonia or “off” aromas, hand it back. Take an insulated container and some ice packs with you whenever you’re planning to purchase fish. And though some sources will say it’ll keep for a few days, others say to use it within 24 hours or don’t bother.

Halibut becomes dry when overcooked; 10 minutes for each inch of thickness is a reliable rule of thumb. When properly cooked, halibut is one of the sweetest, most delicious fishes ever to grace a dinner plate.

Grilled Halibut with Roasted Roma Tomatoes, Fennel, and Sweet Onions
Serves 4

This Mediterranean-style preparation makes an easy summer dinner.

6 Roma tomatoes, quartered

2 fennel bulbs, topped and cut vertically into 8 pieces

1 large sweet onion, peeled, halved, and thickly sliced

2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin

2 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil

1/2 cup shredded fresh basil

4 6-oz. halibut steaks, 1-inch thick

8 lemon wedges

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Preheat grill to medium-high.
  2. Toss tomatoes, fennel, onion, garlic, oregano, and thyme, with ¼ cup oil in large shallow roasting pan, and add salt and pepper to taste. Roast 30 to 35 minutes, until vegetables are cooked through but not soft. Remove from oven, and stir in basil.
  3. Moisten halibut steaks on both sides with remaining 1 Tbs. oil, and add salt and pepper to taste. Place each steak on piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, transfer to grill, and cook—covered—10 minutes, until fish is just cooked through but not falling apart. Remove foil packages from grill, and set aside.
  4. Divide roasted vegetable mix among 4 plates; gently remove halibut steaks from foil with spatula, and place atop vegetables. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges on side.


Related Articles: