Our annual survey of seafood in Southeast Louisiana this year counts down the 33 best seafood species enjoyed in our restaurants, seafood markets, and homes. For the full survey so far, click here. Or use the links at the bottom to move up and down the list.
The best dish I ate during a cruise in Alaska was a surprise special. The ship's captain went fishing one day and pulled up a 200-pound halibut. He sent it to the galley, where the chef made it a verbal dinner special. It was magnificent: a thick block of white, flaky goodness, moist and vivid,, in a sauce with a little cream, peas, and red pepper.
A halibut is a gigantic flounder. It can outsize the boat from which it was caught. (If you don't believe that, look at the halibut hanging on the wall in the Anchorage Airport.) Like flounders, halibuts lie on the bottom of the sea, waiting for a good-looking fish to swim within dinner distance. It's highly thought of in the northern Pacific coast, where it's in the company of salmon as the great gourmet fish of the region. It's also caught in the north Atlantic.
In New Orleans restaurants, halibut usually runs as a special. If you ever encounter it, first make sure that it's fresh. Frozen halibut is a factory fish and is both tough and tasteless. The fresh fish is wonderful, with a very mild flavor so good that even those who prefer stronger-tasting fish look forward to eating it. The most likely restaurant for trying halibut is Gautreau's, where Chef Sue Zemanick loves it and tries to get keep it on the menu most of the time.
If you ever wind up with some halibut in your kitchen, the way to prepare it is to either bake or broil it. It's best cooked to the point where it's still very moist inside. It is a fine fish for sauces, especially those with cream and some assertive ingredients like saffron, green peppercorns, or fennel.
This is an idea inspired by Gautreau's Sue Zemanick, but different enough from her great works with halibut that she avoids all blame. The detonator is a crusty topping with horseradish and garlic held in a matrix of bread crumbs. While the fish roasts, the thick crust get toasty brown.
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 cups bread crumbs
- 2 Tbs. fresh horseradish, finely grated
- 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped or even pureed
- 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
- 1 Tbs. Creole seasoning
- 4 thick halibut fillets, cut across, about 8-10 oz. each
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
1. Melt the butter and blend it with the other crust ingredients until it almost but not quite sticks together. Divide this into four portions, and cover the top of each grouper fillet with a layer of the crust.
2. Place the encrusted fish fillets in a large skillet or baking pan, lightly oiled with olive oil. Sprinkle lemon juice over all. Bake the fish in a preheated 400- degree oven for 10-12 minutes. (To test the fish for doneness, push a kitchen fork into the center of the biggest fillet. Hold it there for five seconds, then pull it out. Touch the tines of the fork carefully to your lips. If it feels even warm, the fish is done.)
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