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Halibut laid out at Aberdeen Fish Market, 1910 from The Unnatural History of the Sea

Summer is a time to pack in as much activity as you can into 90 days, particularly for those of us who live in colder climes when every precious moment of warm sunshine is to be cherished.

Many of you have travelled “across the pond” to enjoy the London Olympics, the rest of the world is enjoying televised coverage, cheering on our countrymen in our favorite sports.  The time out in front of the TV helps one recover from all the summer fun we have packed into such a short period of time.  As for me, I am still recovering from our family fishing trip to the Northern Pacific Coast of B.C.  While we go for the huge salmon, it is the halibut which makes  the trip extra special.

Fishing: Time Honored Traditions

Our fish market of bottom feeding fish

I have written about our family fishing trip before; offering salmon mousse rollup as tribute for my Dad’s birthday, and exploring fishing as a sport of gentlemen in the Days of Downton Abbey, with a recipe for stuffed wild salmon.  Don’t worry, with all the fish stored in our freezer, I will have plenty more salmon stories/recipes to share.

Our favorite fishing grounds are off Dundas Island, just shy of Alaska in Northern B.C. After 20 hours in the truck driving from Calgary, another 5 hours traveling by boat, we arrive at a floating fish dock in a sheltered bay, with 3 days of fishing ahead of us.  As for fisherman for generations before us, we time our visit to coincide with the migration of our fish of choice:  the mighty Spring Salmon, but to be able to have calm waters in order to anchor in the open ocean and fish the bottom where the white fish live (halibut, red snapper, and a variety of cod) is a real treat.  This year we had perfect conditions and were able to enjoy a warm sunny afternoon to fish the bottom. I didn’t even get tiniest bit seasick this trip when I was below deck preparing lunch.

We were even taught how to “bottom bounce” for snapper and cod by our guide who has worked as a commercial fisherman.  When you shop for fish from your local fish monger you should remember much is still fished by line, not nets, and it is a lot of work.  We did well to catch our limit, and my younger brother Lord C caught a 60 pound halibut.  Both sport and commercial fishing is regulated to help ensure our waters are not fished out.  Unfortunately for England (was it their love for fish and chips?) halibut was practically fished out in the North Atlantic in the 19th century and has not really recovered its glory days.

freezer full of fish

While fish and chips would have been a recipe favored by the servants at Downton Abbey, the Crawleys had more descerning palates.  As a white mild flavored fish, halibut can be used in a variety of ways to satisfy the tastes both upstairs and down, and I will be sharing some of my favorites over the next few months. Our freezer full of fish also includes  red snapper, ling cod, as well as the lovely Spring (Chinook), Coho and pink salmon, so we will explore preparing those types of fish as well.

Hazelnut Crusted Halibut with Boozy Blackberry Sauce

Halibut with a boozy tequila blackberry sauce.

My father–a fisherman at heart, a lawyer by trade–is a tough man to please when it comes to fish.  So it thrills me to no end that I was finally able to serve him a halibut dish which met with his approval. He ordered a halibut dish recently at a high end restaurant which he didn’t care for, and suggested that the chef try my recipe instead.

My inspiration came from a similar dish served at the Jericho Tennis Club in Vancouver. I lived in Vancouver for a couple of years (pre-Winter Olympics), a wonderful haven for Britons seeking a similar climate to their homeland.  I met a wonderful woman who also lived close to Jericho beach who was a member, so I was often treated to gorgeous views of English food and wonderful cuisine.  I wasn’t able to track down the recipe for my favorite halibut dish they served, so I set out to create my tribute, based on other recipes. I liked the addition of tequila for bit of punch! I still find it strange to buy blackberries in the store since in Vancouver, you can pick blackberries anywhere, as residents use the thick pricky blackberry hedges as privacy/security barriers to protect their property.

Hazelnut Crust

Ingredients

Hazelnut Crust:

  • 1 cup Hazelnuts (or almonds or other hard nuts)
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Method:  Purée all ingredients in a food processor until it has a crumb texture. I find this makes more than I need for 4 filets so I keep unused portion in the freezer for our next meal.

Boozy Blackberry Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup tequila (you can omit if you wish)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp.  rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Method 

  1. Caramelize onions in oil until browned. Add garlic and tequila and reduce until dry.
  2. Add juices, honey, sugar, vinegar, water and bring to a boil. Add half of the berries and return to a boil.
  3. Remove from heat and purée mixture until smooth in a blender (or immersion blender).
  4. Add remaining whole berries and salt and pepper.
  5. This will yield more than enough sauce for this dinner, so you can store in the fridge for a week or freeze for your next halibut dinner.

Final Assembly

  1. Coat 4 x 6-ounce halibut filets in the hazelnut crust.
  2. Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
  3. Top with the berry sauce and garnish with favorite starch and vegetables.

Check Out The Book of the Day

Learn more about fishing the great oceans

If you want to learn more about the history and impact of commercial fishing, this is a great read to check out.

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