I use to work as a Senior Project Manager at a website development firm in Orange County and one of my clients was www.shopandersonseafoods.com (Let me give you fair warning, their photographer is disgustingly good so don’t be surprised if you start to drool when you see the pictures on their website) . So as a wedding gift my client sent me a complimentary package of fresh fish (Halibut and Salmon). Their fish is amazingly fresh and although I knew their overnight delivery was top notch the condition of the package and the quality of the fish surpassed my expectations.
The fresh fish arrived on my doorsteps in a well sealed brown box that was clearly labeled as overnight with Anderson Seafood’s all over the box. The box was completely sealed in what I would describe as space age foam, you know the kind of foam that has shinny foil covering it to help insulate heat. All six sides of the box was completely sealed in this foam and if that was not enough my fish came inside of a airtight sealed plastic bin. Inside the bin was my fish along with blue ice packs. So I am not joking when I say this fish arrived at my house probably in a more fresh state than if I went down to my local market to buy it myself.
After I opened the package the first thing I did was open up the Halibut because it looked so fresh I had to cook it right away. It passed the number one test of fresh fish because when I opened up the air tight sealed packaging there was literally no odder at all. I washed the fish and patted it dry and started to think about how I wanted to prepare this fish. Normally I plan out how I am going to cook fish before I even buy it from the market but because this fish ended up on my doorsteps I didn’t have time to think about that. Since this fish was so fresh and because Halibut is a delicate fish I wanted to keep it simple so I could really taste the fish itself. So I quickly grabbed some butter, lemon, salt and pepper and decided to simply sear it.
I seasoned the fish with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt on both sides. I then added a Tbsp slab of butter and a little grape seed oil to my carbon steal pan and blasted it on high heat. Once the butter melted I immediately added in the Halibut. Once the fish hits the pan do not move it. Let it cook and develop a crust before you try to move it, otherwise you will break apart the fish. Let it cook for a few minutes until you see the meat start to turn white 3/4 of the way up the sides (basically it should look the picture above), then you are ready to flip the fish. Using a fish spatula, carefully flip the fish to sear the other side. What I usually do is take a form and lightly lift the fish to one side then slide the fish spatula under it to avoid scrapping the nicely seared side.
Once you flip your fish make sure you have either a cooling rack or a plate ready to receive the fish. If your fish is thin (i.e. Less than 1 inch thick) than just realize once you flip your fish it will be done cooking rather quickly. Meat continues cooking after you remove it from the heat, this is referred to as carry over heat. With fish this carry over heat tends to happen quickly which is why the second half of the fish always cooks faster than the first half. Usually for a steak it takes about 4 minutes on each side (assuming the steak is at room temperature when you start cooking and that steak is roughly 1 inch thick). Fish on the other hand if it takes 3 minutes on one side it will probably only take 2 minutes on the other side because the carry over heat from the first side cooking will accelerate the cooking faster than in a steak. It has to do with the fact that fish is a much more delicate piece of meat so the heat transfer is quicker than in steak. If your fish is more than 1 inch thick than it might take a few minutes to finish cooking but what you want to look for is a solid crust formed on both sides and the side of the fish should be completely white (not translucent). Once you get the hang of cooking fish you will get to know the “touch” of what a perfectly cooked fish feels like when you gently push down on it from the top. It is hard to explain in words but the best way I can explain the touch is that you want it to be somewhat firm like pushing on a medium rare steak. If the fish is undercooked than the meat will feel rubbery (too much bounce back) and if the fish is overcooked than it will feel too solid (not enough give). So the perfectly cooked fish should have a little bit of a push back but not so much that it feels rubbery. Another thing to keep in mind is because of carry over heat you want the fish to be a little undercooked when you remove it from the pan because it will finish cooking on the cooling rack or on the plate. If you wait till it is fully cooked then remove the fish from the pan, by the time your fork touches the fish it will be over cooked.
Once my fish was finished cooking I placed it on a cooling rack and added some fresh lemon juice to it. I then added some snow peas and mushrooms into the same pan I used to cook the fish and I quickly sauteed my vegetables. There are a lot of different ways to prepare Halibut but I like mine simple. This fish was delicious and so was the Salmon, I will create a separate post for the Salmon because I prepared that one a little differently.