Follow a Portland chef’s step-by-step instructions to give sweet fish a crunchy crust.
Citrus- and Almond-Crusted Halibut with Beurre Blanc Higgins Restaurant and Bar, Portland
During wild Alaskan halibut season—from early spring through fall—the tender, flaky fish is the must-have menu item at Higgins Restaurant and Bar in Portland (1239 SW Broadway, 503-222-9070, higginsportland.com). Since founding the groundbreaking restaurant 17 years ago, chef Greg Higgins has championed local and sustainable ingredients. When it comes to halibut, he buys only fresh, whole, in-season fish caught using hook-and-line methods by a small co-op of fishermen in Alaska who get it to him only a day or two out of the water. Every part of the fish is used: fillets for evening entrées, scrapings for smoked fish plates, and bones for stock that forms the foundation of seafood soups and stews.
“Halibut is a people pleaser,” Higgins says. “It lends itself to everything from fish and chips to grilling. Especially if you like your seafood on the milder side of the spectrum, I can’t imagine not loving halibut.”
One of his favorite halibut preparations involves coating thick fillets with an egg-white wash, then a crunchy mixture of crushed almonds flavored with orange and lemon zest. After roasting, the fish is served with a buttery sauce fortified with Belgian white ale. Because his restaurant offers an extensive beer list, Higgins likes to incorporate brews into his dishes. The hints of coriander and citrus in this particular ale, he says, marry particularly well with the sweetness of the halibut, and he recommends serving the crusty dish with the same type of ale.
Citrus- and Almond-Crusted Halibut with Beurre Blanc Serves 4 Adapted from the recipe of chef Greg Higgins at Higgins Restaurant and Bar
1 orange 1 lemon 1 ½ cups Belgian white ale such as Hoegaarden or Blue Moon 4 medium shallots, minced 1 teaspoon black peppercorns 2 sprigs fresh thyme ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided 1 tablespoon ground coriander, divided ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted and crushed ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper 1 egg white 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 4 halibut fillets, about 6 ounces each 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 ½ sticks (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1. Rinse the orange and the lemon in warm tap water. With a paring knife or potato peeler, peel the orange-colored zest from the orange, leaving the white pith behind. Repeat with the washed lemon. Using a hand juicer held over a small bowl, juice the orange and lemon.
2. In a small, nonreactive saucepan, combine the orange and lemon juices, the ale, shallots, peppercorns, thyme, ¼ teaspoon of the cayenne, and ½ tablespoon of the coriander. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer.
3. Preheat oven to 400°F. While the sauce mixture reduces, chop the orange and lemon zest finely and combine it with remaining ½ tablespoon coriander, remaining ¼ teaspoon cayenne, and the crushed almonds. Season with the salt and pepper.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white and the Dijon mustard with a drop or two of water. Season the halibut portions on all sides with salt and pepper and place them on a pan brushed with the olive oil. Lightly brush the top of each halibut fillet with the egg-white wash, then sprinkle heavily with the almond mixture to form an even crust. Roast until the fish is nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes.
5. While the fish cooks, prepare the sauce. Allow the seasoned juice-ale mixture to simmer until it reduces to about ½ cup. Using a fine sieve, strain the liquid; discard the shallots and other seasonings. Return the strained liquid to the saucepan, and with a hand whisk rapidly blend in a few pieces of the cold butter. Place the pan over very low heat and continue whisking in the butter a few pieces at a time, removing the pan from the heat as you add the last pieces. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon a fourth of the warm sauce onto each halibut fillet, and serve promptly with a tossed salad and some hearty bread.
Photography by Brian Kimmel
This article was first published in March 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.