On today’s episode, I’m tackling H is for Halibut and Habitat.
But first I want you to subscribe to GFBO on iTunes and give me a five-star rating or four whatever because you know how cool this podcast is.
Alright so Two weeks ago, I bought two pounds of fresh wild Alaskan halibut. FedEx brought the fish to my doorstep overnight. It was pearly white, glistening and smell clean and fresh. My first thought wasn’t about how I would prepare it, but that I wished I’d bought more! At the time I ordered two pounds seemed like a lot of fish for two people. I mean four-ounce portions is what I normally eat so we would have four meals right? But inside that box, those four eight ounce portions didn’t look like much at all.
Every Spring when I order wild Alaska halibut, I swear it is the. Best. Fish. and that I could eat it every day. And Elvis says, you’d get tired of it. But I just shake my head no and think you’re wrong.
But actually, he’s right, in a way. I wouldn’t get tired of it.
I only eat halibut in moderation for two reasons.
- One because of its status on the conservation list. And that depends on where it comes from.
- And two the price of the fish.
Halibut can be found in both the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Greenland.
Pacific Halibut are found in Alaska and Canada are considered good alternatives by Seafood Watch and best choice by Environmental Defense Fund. And hey get this, as a side note, halibut is both wild and farm raised. Not that that should surprise you since more than half the fish we eat is farmed. We don’t farm halibut in Alaska but it is farmed in Canada. The farmed halibut doesn’t get the nod of approval for best choice at Seafood Watch because its feed is mostly wild fish and that my friends
And hey get this, as a side note, halibut is both wild and farm raised. Not that that should surprise you since more than half the fish we eat is farmed. We don’t farm halibut in Alaska but it is farmed in Canada. The farmed halibut doesn’t get the nod of approval for best choice at Seafood Watch because its feed is mostly wild fish and that my friends is not sustainable.
Now the halibut in the North Atlantic is a problem because of overfishing.
Get this, according to Seafood Watch, Atlantic halibut are expected to recover by the year 2056. But the peeps at Monterey Bay Aquarium aren’t exactly feeling all warm and fuzzy about this.
Jesus, in 2056, I’ll be 95 years old. That’s actually a little depressing—both the halibut recovery and my old age.
So should you eat halibut?
If you see Atlantic halibut at the market or online, pull a Nancy Reagan and just say no.
If it’s harvested from the North Pacific or Greenland then yes. In moderation. And if you can afford it.
For instance, that halibut I bought a few weeks ago? I paid $40 per pound which included shipping from Alaska. So yes, it’s a splurge. Well worth it. My mother in law always said, “chicken today, feathers tomorrow.” Thank you, Mama B.
The halibut we buy and eat in restaurants and at the market are landed on large commercial boats using a bottom longline. Other methods to fish halibut are bottom gill nets or trawls which produce a lot of bycatch. So that ‘s not sustainable. And remember I did B is for Bycatch a few months ago. So you can go back to iTunes or the GFBO site to listen to all that if you need more information.
Halibut are graded by size on the boat. Halibut range from 10-20 pounds, 20-30 pounds, and 40-50 pounds. Most are in the 20-30-pound range. Fishermen remove the head, creating a product called H & G for headed and gutted, and then take the H&G fish to the docks for further processing.
But there are some monster halibut swimming around on the ocean shelves. Halibut can grow up seven feet long and over five hundred pounds. That’s a whole lot of eating. Check the Show Notes for a YouTube video showing some monster halibut landed in Alaska! But those are recreational fishing vessels.
I personally have never fished for halibut. So I reached out to my friend Tammy who works at Copper River Seafoods in Anchorage Alaska who has gone halibut fishing. Tammy says it’s her favorite type of fishing. And if I knew a bit more about this software editing, you would be listening to Tammy tell her experience instead of me. Be patient my listeners, interviews are coming to Green Fish Blue Oceans.
So if you’ve ever bottom fished for any species, then you know the drill. Drop the weighted bait until it hits the ocean bottom, or in the case of halibut, the ocean shelf. And then you wait. And wait.
If you have never bottom fished, then think about this. Tammy says hooking a halibut is like pulling up a barn door. That’s how big these fish can get.
So when can you buy fresh halibut?
But you won’t be thinking about much of this when you eat halibut. Because Halibut is delicious.
Wild Alaska Halibut season runs March through almost November, but it’s not steady. So if you see it in the store or offered in a restaurant, go for it. You won’t be disappointed. And you probably will be in the mood to spend some money.
This year my fresh halibut was caught in Seward, Alaska off the Lady Simpson. And I know there’s a Simpson’s joke in there, but I probably the only person I know who doesn’t watch the Simpsons. So anyway. Most of the commercial Alaskan halibut is coming in from Seward, Homer, and Whittier Alaska according to Tammy in Alaska.
Now if you’re curious about where the heck that is, download the new Google Earth app.
Have you ever seen a halibut?
This is one mofo funky fish. Halibut are a flat fish with both eyes on one side of their head. Its mouth is twisted downward so that when it lays flat on the ocean shelf, it can eat And it loves crustaceans and small fish.
Now, this is the seafood world and so to make things confusing, there are several other species of fish that have these same characteristics—the body shape, the eyes and the mouth thingy—there’s lemon sole, flounder, dab, brill, Dover sole and well…you can see why knowing what you are buying can be a challenge if you just saw a piece of white fish in the case at the market. Of all the similar species though, turbot is the closest fish to halibut in size.
But you won’t be thinking about much of this when you eat halibut. Because halibut has a mild flavor, is firm, yet melts in your mouth.
Ready to cook some halibut?
My fave way to cook halibut is seared in a hot skillet on the stovetop and then finished in the oven. Actually, this is my favorite cooking technique for any fish that is thick and firm.
The first recipe I made was Miso-Glazed Glazed Halibut.
I adapted my version from a recipe card that came in the box with the fish from Copper River Seafoods. Think salty, sweet and a tangy bite.
That morning, I whipped up the sauces and salad—it took about twenty minutes. When it was time to cook later that evening, I removed the sauces and salad from the fridge along with the halibut. I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and turned the heat to medium on an oven proof skillet at the same time. I use cast iron most of the time, FYI. This is a fail-proof method for me. Maybe for you too. Although depending on your equipment, you might need to play around a bit.
So for instance, when the oven chimes that it’s heated to 400 then I know, the skillet is hot enough to cook the halibut. To be sure though, hover your hand an inch above the skillet. When you feel the heat radiating up like you know with absolute certainty you’d never touch that surface, you know your pan is ready.
Now if you don’t want to rely on this method, try this. Flick a few drops of water into the skillet and if it bounces and sizzles away, you’re good to go. However, you still need your oven to be 400 degrees since you only cook the fish for about three minutes on one side before you place it in the oven. If you have a thin piece of fish, you won’t need to transfer it to the oven. You can just cook it on the stovetop.
Now while the oven and skillet preheat, gently press the water from the halibut with paper towels. You may need to repeat this step a few times. You want that fish dry.
Then season both sides with kosher salt and ground black pepper.
Swirl a tablespoon of canola oil in the skillet. You can add a dab of butter too f you want. The oil should shimmer. And if it doesn’t then wait until it does before you put that fish in the skillet.
Place the halibut top side down in the skillet. Resist the urge to move the fish once it’s in the pan. You want that fish to have a nice sear. Set you timer for three minutes. Turn the fish to the other side and place the skillet in the oven for five to six minutes to finish.
Half way through the oven cooking time, baste the miso sauce over the top of the fish. This is for halibut that is one inch thick. A good rule for fish is ten minutes of cooking per inch of fish. But rules were meant to be broken. Just saying.
While the fish is in the oven, drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss, and divide between plates or oversized bowls. Sip some wine. Relax.
Remove the fish from the oven and top the salad with the fish.
Oh man, that fish was amazing!
The second recipe was Lemon-Caper Halibut.
So I used the same cooking technique and even made the sauce ahead but only by about thirty minutes because it took about twenty minutes to make the sauce and I like to chill a little when I’m playing in the kitchen.
When the fish went in the oven, I brought the sauce back up to a simmer and finished it with a pat of cold butter to thicken it. However, with this recipe, I didn’t baste the fish while it was in the oven.
Instead, I placed the halibut on a plate then spooned a generous amount of the Lemon-Caper sauce over the top and around the sides of the fish.
Tangy, buttery sweetness. Oh, I could eat halibut every day.
Now if you want more information about those recipes or any other cooking tips, hit me up on Facebook or shoot me an email.
H is for Habitat
Welcome back to the H is for habitat part of the program. This is going to be short and sweet folks.
So, what can I tell you about marine habitats that you can’t Google or already know?
Well, I want to start with a basic definition then move on to my Top 5 ways to Protect Habitats.
First, a habitat is an environment that is inhabited by a living creature or being. And as you know, a marine habitat, are delicate special places. There are coastal habitats, open ocean habitats, surface habitats, and ocean bottom habitats.
The ocean’s habitats and its creatures are affected by temperature, acidity, carbon, weather, waves and pollution.
Which is why it’s important to be mindful about everyday living. What we do on land affects the oceans. So make your actions count and help protect our rivers, lakes and ocean habitats.
Top 5 Ways to Help Protect Habitats and the creatures who rely on them. (Including humans!)
- Eat sustainable seafood! Um, no brainer there, right?
- Stop using plastic straws. And use recycled plastic only. Okay, so that was a twofer.
- And speaking of plastic, please, please, please bring your own bags to the market already.
- Volunteer at a beach cleanup or waterway cleanup in your area. Lakes and rivers need love too!
- Lastly, vote for officials who care about the environment! And stay involved. Sign those petitions. Make your voice count. We will all benefit from a cleaner, healthier environment.
So that’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to Green Fish Blue Oceans. Don’t forget you can subscribe to GFBO on iTunes and Google Play.
Next up, I is for Ice and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
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And if you’re new to Green Fish Blue Oceans, let’s connect. Find me online at www.maureencberry.com or just shoot me a message.
Thanks again. And have a great two weeks,