Serious Halibut

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With the spring halibut season upon us, I thought I’d share one of our favorite ways to cook the giant flounders. This is a shot of the heat just coming up on a dish of Chinese-style steamed halibut with black bean sauce. And even though we ate this to the point of gluttony, my mouth waters again just thinking about it. Better yet, it’s incredibly easy to make:

Start by prepping the sauce. You can either go with dried, fermented Chinese black beans and make your own sauce from scratch, or for max ease, go with a pre-made black bean sauce. You can find this in the Asian section of most grocery stores near the soy sauce and chile paste. Small jar, often called “black bean sauce with garlic” or “garlic black bean sauce.” Put a couple tablespoons of the sauce in a small bowl and mix in a half-teaspoon or so of grated ginger and the same amount of crushed garlic. Add a dash of rice wine vinegar and a half-teaspoon of “sambal” chile paste. No hard-and-fast rules here, just add the ingredients to fit your taste. Mix thoroughly.

Cut halibut fillet into serving-size chunks, ideally about an inch thick. Spread the sauce on the fish–it’s pretty potent, so just a thin layer will do. I like to place some dried shiitake mushrooms around the fish as well–the steam will collect in the plate and hydrate the mushrooms for a great aromatic addition. Steam on a plate inside a covered bamboo steamer basket placed over a pan of boiling water. Depending on the seal between steamer and pan, and the thickness of the fish, it usually takes about 10-15 minutes at a rolling boil until done, but it’s easy to check–the fish flakes apart and turn opaque all the way through when it’s ready.

Shortly before it’s done, or just as you take it out, sprinkle with finely sliced green onions and/or cilantro for a fresh touch.

Serve with rice and vegetables (we like pan-seared baby bok choy or steamed asparagus) and don’t forget to spoon the liquid that collects in the plate over the fish and rice. Mmmmmmm…so good! Now you just have to go crank one of these monsters up off the bottom in 200 feet of water. Or…swing by your favorite fish monger’s before dinner.

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