Fun Fact: I was born in, and even spent a few of my formative years in, Alaska. What it may be lacking in sunshine, reasonable gas prices (go figure?) and entertainment, southeast Alaska more than makes up for in its abundance of seafood. In my two teen years we spent there (I’m not counting birth to age 5 for the purposes of food taste development, as I’m pretty sure I lived for crackers and white bread), I can’t say the novelty of having a constant supply of fresh seafood ever wore off. No, instead, it just set me up for a lifetime of expensive taste at the seafood counter.
Last Saturday I spent $25 for a pound of halibut. It was worth it.
If you’re not familiar with this fish, proceed with caution. If you cook it perfectly, discovering just how delicious the dense, flaky, mild meat can taste, you’re in for an expensive habit. If you overcook it, you’re in for a dry, $25 disappointment that will have you cursing the day you ever came across this glowing endorsement of the sea’s most wonderful fish.
One of the best ways to be sure you lock in the moisture of a fish that tends to dry out? Mayo. Seriously. Don’t knock it ’til you try it. Mix some good stuff in there and call it ‘aioli’. People will think you sound like a fancy chef.
Prep your fish by rinsing it and patting it dry. If you have a long piece like I did, you may consider portioning it out before cooking so it fits in a smaller pan, which will also hold the juices closer to the fish.
Just look at that pretty piece of seafood.
For the “aioli” (sorry I’m not being totally authenticious and starting from the raw eggs) begin with a mayonnaise base. I used about 1/2 cup of the light stuff. Do not use Miracle Whip and have any high hopes for something delicious. Miracle Whip is gross.
Toss in some capers. These are wonderful, pickled, salty little morsels that make life taste better.
I typically use 2-3 spoons full. If this is your first time using them you might start with just a scoop. They’re pretty delicious but the flavor is quite strong. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it fits your palate. I also like raw oysters and get repulsed by anything maple-flavored. Everyone has their own tastes, so I’ll trust you to know yours.
Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, watching out not to get any seeds.
And some chopped up garlic. I used about two pretty large cloves and left the chunks on the bigger side since I like the extra ‘bite’. This, too, is up to your tastes.
Blend it all together and just let it chill out for a good 10-20 minutes while you prep your fish and preheat you oven to 400.
Anytime I cook fish, especially when the skin is still attached, I’ve learned to line my pan with parchment paper. If you haven’t adopted this little kitchen savior, it’s time to get on board. Unless, of course, you love to scrub dishes. (I do not.)
Add the rinsed, dried, salted and peppered halibut portions to your pan. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil of your choice. I’m still on my basil olive oil kick from Boston Olive Oil Company, but anything you have would be fine.
Spread your caper aioli over the fish until the full surface area is covered.
The length of time you bake it is going to depend on the thickness of your fish. Make sure your oven is preheated to 400, you’ll want to cook this fish fairly hot and fast. My typical test is to try to flake the end of the filet at 15 minutes. If it flakes, pull the fish, cover it with foil, and let it rest another 10 minutes on the stove top where it can finish cooking. If it doesn’t flake, keep checking it every 2-3 minutes until it does. You’d be amazed how quickly it goes from not done to it-was-done-3-minutes-ago.
I promise you, your diligence will pay off.
Just look at that flaky deliciousness.
I paired mine with some corn and steamed white sweet potatoes, but if you want to eat it out of the pan, I won’t judge.