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Poached Halibut

Wed 05 May 2021 19:11:02 PDT
Halibut is a highly regarded fish variety but has a reputation of being difficult to prepare. Halibut's low fat content no doubt makes it easy to overcook and no one prefers dry-tasting fish.

Here's where poaching comes into the picture. Gently simmering the fish partly immersed in flavorful liquid reduces odds of going past the point of perfect doneness. It also enhances flavor profile, desirable since halibut can be rather bland as a main course focal point.

Poaching is also a remarkably straightforward technique. A big benefit is the “side-effect” of producing copious amounts of great sauce with almost no additional effort.

Recently a dinner guest, a fine cook herself, was skeptical of the method as she watched it happening. Surprised by the result she felt compelled to proclaim “this is the best halibut I've ever eaten”. The compliment was appreciated especially in view of the modest effort required to get it on the table.


  • halibut, preferably fresh 1.5lb
  • lemon, sliced, 1/8" 1 small
  • pomelo, sliced, 1/8" † 1/4 fruit
  • shallot, sliced, 1/2 bulb
  • fennel bulb, leaves, sliced 1/3-1/2 bulb
  • green onion, 3 in pieces 2 onions
  • garlic, sliced 2 cloves
  • coriander, ground 2 tsp
  • nutmeg, ground 1 tsp
  • celery seed 1/4 tsp
  • cardamom, ground 1/2 tsp
  • galanga, sliced thin † 3-4 slices
  • whole mustard seed 1/2 tsp
  • fennel stems (1/8")/leaves 3-4 3" stems
  • parsley, dried 2 tsp
      the poaching liquid
  • dry vermouth/white wine 1/2 cup
  • clam juice 2 tbsp
  • Thinair dashi (or fish stock) ~1-2 cup
  • pepper, salt 1/2 tsp
  • olive oil or ghee 2 tbsp
  1. In a 10in saute pan, cook shallot and fennel in oil for a few minutes.
  2. Turn off heat, distribute lemon and pomelo slices in a single layer.
  3. Add galanga and spices, distribute evenly around the pan.
  4. Place fish on top of ingredients in the pan.
  5. Add wine/vermouth, clam juice and enough dashi to come up to bottom of the fish plus ~1/4 it's thickness.
  6. Heat the pan until liquid is simmering. Maintain simmer until fish is done, about 10-15 minutes. (At that point internal temperature will be ~ 120°F.)
  7. Turn off heat. Remove fish to a plate. Keep warm while finishing the sauce.
  8. After removing fish from pan remove the lemon, pomelo. Remove galanga if hard/woody, otherwise keep it.
  • poaching liquid ~2-3 cup
  • xanthan gum 1/4-1/2 tsp
  • rice flour (or corn starch) 2 tsp/cup
  1. At this point preferred action is processing contents of the pan in a blender. If not using a blender strain liquid and press residual liquid from solids; thicken with starch or rice flour as described below.
  2. Blender method: process the liquid in a blender at medium speed. Using xanthan gum: while blender is running (for 30-60 seconds), add xanthan in small increments (1/8 teaspoon) until mixture looks smooth and nicely thickened.
  3. If not using xanthan, mix starch/rice flour at 2 tsp/cup liquid then bring to simmer. Stir frequently until mixture thickens.
  4. Adjust seasoning, promptly serve fish and sauce.
 Galanga and pomelo may be hard to find at typical groceries (vs. Asian markets). Galanga can be omitted or substituted by fresh horseradish and ginger slices. Red/pink grapefruit may be used in place of pomelo. (Using other citrus, mango, etc., could provide interesting variations.)
At first glance this recipe may seem daunting. However it's really a pretty simple idea: saute some aromatics, put some other ingredients in the pan, put fish on top, add wine and stock then simmer until the fish is done. Strain the liquid (or blend the cooking goodies), thicken and it's ready to serve. Try it and feel free to comment if you think we're wrong!
Categories: seafood

About Thinair Recipes

Recipes developed with low-sodium diets in mind—so easy to use!

Here's a quick guide:
Recipes have one or more “boxed” ingredient lists grouped with step-by-step instructions, for example:

  • garlic, chopped 3 cloves
  • chicken stock 2 cups
  • ...other ingredients...
  1. Saute garlic in oil until soft.
  2. Add chicken stock to pan...
  3. step...

Ingredient boxes show what you'll need for the numbered steps. Not too complicated!

BTW “salt” in our recipes refers to salt substitute, i.e., potassium chloride, KCl. (Since KCl may not be healthy for some people, ask your doctor if it's OK for you to use it.)