Tag Archives: halibut

Pan-seared Halibut with Salsa Verde

24 Apr

halibut with salsa verde

Since we moved to the Danforth East area of Toronto in 2009, I’ve lamented the lack of great places to buy meat and fresh fish. It’s not that there are no butchers or fishmongers in the east end, but they’re few and far between compared to the west end of the city. And you certainly can’t walk into a supermarket on this side of Toronto and buy all your groceries while also having access to an amazing selection of local, organic meats, like you can at Fiesta Farms (a place we love, but which is at the polar opposite end of Toronto from us).

Fortunately, the recent addition of a fishmonger called Hooked on Queen St. E in Leslieville has greatly improved our access to high quality fish and seafood. We’re definitely planning to make this our go-to place for great fish, and we’ll probably do a more in-depth post at some point on the place, its great staff and their focus on sustainable product. In the meantime, definitely check out some of the profiles that others have done.

But back to our first Hooked visit and purchase. I went in one day after work recently looking for a nice, firm-fleshed white fish to go with a salsa verde I was planning to make. A chat with knowledgeable owner Dan Donovan and a quick scan of their selection convinced me that a line-caught B.C. halibut filet was the way to go. The large fish was displayed whole at Hooked, and I liked the fact that they cut it as filets rather than the halibut steaks that seem to be more common, which I find are harder to cook evenly and contain too many pesky bones.

Hooked Toronto B.C. Halibut

Salsa verde, a.k.a. green sauce, is an herb-based sauce common to many countries. The version I made to go with our fish was closest to the Italian recipe, combining the herbs with anchovy, capers and vinegar (traditional Italian salsa verde recipes also contain garlic, which I left out because I didn’t want it overpowering the taste of the fish). I was initially a bit disappointed with the way the sauce tasted on its own, as it was a touch too tart and I’d probably leave out the Dijon mustard next time to cut down on the tartness and bring out the fresh herbs a bit more. But it ended up pairing perfectly with the moist and slightly sweet tasting halibut, which Jenny and I agreed was probably the best-tasting piece of fish we’ve ever cooked at home.

Pan-seared Halibut with Salsa Verde

2 halibut filet portions
12 capers
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 TBS red wine vinegar
1/4 C high-quality olive oil
1 large handful of fresh parsley
1 large handful of fresh basil
1 large handful of fresh tarragon
A few mint leaves
Salt and pepper

For the salsa verde:
Chop all herbs and add to food processor along with half the olive oil and all other ingredients. Run the food processor to combine and blend everything, adding more of the olive oil gradually to get the sauce to reach the consistency you want – more oil for a thinner sauce, less for a thicker version. I added the entire 1/4 cup and still ended up with a relatively thick sauce that sat nicely on top of the fish.

For the fish:
Rub a small amount of olive oil on the bottom of a pan, and heat pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes to get it nice and hot. Season fish with salt and pepper and place in hot pan. Cook about four minutes, then flip and cook another three minutes (watch your timing here; it’s way better to slightly undercook good fish than overcook it).

Plate seared halibut filets and top each with a generous serving of salsa verde. Serve with a simple, fresh salad.

Smoky Halibut, Two Ways: Cooking with Lapsang Souchong Tea

20 Mar

A few years ago we celebrated my mom’s birthday with high tea at The King Edward Hotel in Toronto. It was a memorable experience from the beautiful tea sandwiches and colorful treats right down to the lavish room, stunning china and of course the extensive selection of tea.

But what I remember most from that day was the lingering and intense smell of campfire pouring out of Neil’s teapot.

While the rest of us opted for the typical Darjeeling Oolong or Moroccan Mint, Neil of course had to choose whatever was strangest from the tea menu. One sniff of the intensely smoky leaves was enough to pique his curious palate.

Lapsang Souchong is a unique Chinese black tea. The leaves are smoke-dried over pinewood fires, infusing them with a really smoky flavor. It’s aroma is unmistakable, very much like standing in front of a huge fire pit.

When Neil and I spotted it in a store a few weeks ago we seemed to both have the same thought; what would happen if you tried cooking with it? I immediately envisioned turning the strong brewed tea into a poaching liquid for fish and Neil dreamed up a rub using the whole leaves. Then we figured, why choose? We’d just have to try both.

We were curious to see how much smoke flavor would be infused into the fish. Drinking a cup of the brewed tea, the flavor really hits you when you take the first sip. But what’s nice about it is that it doesn’t have that fake smoke flavor, like you get with liquid smoke, which I find I can really taste in a lot of dishes that use it.

We knew we wanted to use a white fish and we ended up with fresh wild halibut. Neil made his rub and I went to work on the poaching liquid. We used one big piece of fish and sliced it in half for the two cooking methods.

Both cooking methods resulted in a really delicious tasting piece of fish, but they were very different.

The rub had the more intense smoky flavor with a spicy kick. The fish was really good and the rub made a nice crust.

The poached fish had a much more subtle smoky flavor with a hint of sweetness. The broth needed something sweet to balance out the salty, smoky flavors so the mirin and agave nectar worked well to balance it. We found the best way to serve the poached fish was in a bowl sitting in some of the liquid to deepen the flavor as you eat it.

We served the meal with a sides of mashed parsnips mixed with olive oil, sea salt and some grated ginger and sautéed broccolini with chili flakes.

It was a fun experiment that opened up so many possibilities for how to use the tea in future. Lots of people grind it up and use spoonfuls of it in all kinds of dishes to layer in a hit of smokiness.

We’ll definitely be cooking with it again, and I may even brew a pot or two the next time I’m craving a summer BBQ or campfire in the midst of winter. The aroma alone is enough to take you there.

You can find Lapsang Souchong tea at most specialty tea shops.

Smoky Halibut, Two Ways:

For both recipes you’ll need a good, fresh piece of white fish like halibut.


3 cups strongly brewed Lapsang Souchong tea

¼ cup mirin

¼ cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp agave nectar or honey

1 big knob of ginger, peeled and chopped into small pieces

1 Tbsp reserved tea leaves (that you used to brew the tea itself)

Mix all of the ingredients in a deep pan and bring to a boil to let the flavors infuse. Boil for about 2-3 minutes then turn the heat down to bring the liquid to a simmer. Add in the fish, skin-side down. Spoon some liquid overtop of the fish every few minutes as it cooks. Cook for approximately 10 minutes but adjust depending on the thickness of your fish.

Once the fish is cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. Turn the heat back up to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil for several minutes until the broth reduces by about half.

Serve the fish in a bowl with some poaching broth and eat with a spoon to get some broth with every bite.


2 tsp Lapsang Souchong tea leaves

1/2 tsp cayenne

1 tsp brown sugar

Salt & pepper

Place everything in mortar and pestle and crush into a coarse rub.

Rub on both sides of fish.

Spray a pan (metal, so the fish crusts nicely) with canola oil spray or rub pan with oil. Heat over medium-high heat for several minutes to get it really hot. Add fish and cook 3-4 minutes, until rub begins to form a crust and fish starts to turn white. Flip and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side.

%d bloggers like this: