Halibut Sous Vide, Butter and Lime

This post is a bit of an experiment. I have noticed that when I post on a Friday, I get a bit of a bounce on the numbers. As my posting schedule (to call it a schedule is an insult to German train efficiency) has become a bit erratic of late, I thought I should try Friday again. If you are reading this on another day, the recipe is equally valid. It is not the first sous vide halibut I have done. It is the simplest and in my opinion, the tastiest by far.

Though, there is a bit of an issue with fish on Friday. This was driven in Ireland by the Catholic Church threatening its flock with eternal damnation should meat pass the lips on the last day of the working week. Rather than promoting the consumption of fish, it had the opposite effect. We resented having the scaly, smelly, slithery creatures inflicted on us. It has taken generations of progressively more enlightened Irish to push back the tide of oppression and to find delicious fish worthy of salivation and even preparation.

Deciding to cook some fine halibut to test the blog stats is really not relevant to my whinge against the oppression of the Irish people over generations as one would have had more chance of being offered dodo meat than halibut back in the 50s and 60s.

So, on with the meat of this fish cooking. I got a couple of nice thick halibut steaks and thought I might try it sous vide. My preparation was simplicity itself. 55º for 40 minutes seemed like a sensible way forward.

Great fish needs very few ingredients.

The first thing to do with halibut, no matter how you plan to cook it, is to remove the skin. Halibut has a really tough skin worthy of handbag manufacture, if you don’t mind the aroma.

I have a lovely ‘bendy’ knife specific to the task of skinning fish.

Cut your fish into serving sized portions. These are “Are you planning to eat all that on your own?” sized portions. However, when I am at the counter in the fishmonger, I always ask for a little more.

Halibut has a lovely translucency about it.

I salted the halibut for a couple of hours ahead of cooking.  Remember to wash off the salt before bagging it with some butter.

Any excuse for an action shot.

 I added butter to the fish in the bag before sealing and cooking at 55º for 40 minutes.

The butter adds a nice oiliness that makes the fish easier to slide onto the frying pan.

Remove the fish from the bag after cooking and cook it on a medium hot pan for about 3 minutes a side, enough to give it a nice crust. When you turn the fish (gently please), pop a knob of butter on top of the fish. Let it melt gently. If you get your timing right, it will have just about covered the fish as you serve. Give it a squeeze of lime as well. This is a very simple and delicious combination.

This is a truly delightful piece of fish.

I served it with a spicy pearl couscous mixture. It’s a great match for a great fish. Now, how are my Friday numbers doing?

Footnote on frying method: I have seen lovely white fish cooked sous vide and then finished in the pan with burnt butter. I don’t like the idea. Neither the colour or acrid taste improve the fish. This is a method that can be used to great effect with a robust steak of beef or venison. But not a delicate flavoured fish. 

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  • That final shot of the finished dish is really mouthwatering. Healthy and utterly delicious. It makes me think I’ve been missing a trick because in all the years I’ve had sous-vide equipment, I’ve NEVER used it to cook fish. With pan frying or grilling it’s all too easy to end up drying out halibut, swordfish, hake or whatever. Your post has made me realise sous-vide is the obvious way to keep white fish moist and succulent. In the freezer I have some halibut and hake pieces, so I shall try it tonight.

  • Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I remember Friday lunch in the school cafeteria quite well: fish sticks (fish fingers) with tartar sauce, buttered green beans, applesauce, bread and butter. Every. Friday. These days, one of my very favorite meals is to have a hunk of fish with some melted butter and lemon or lime. Maybe a little parsley or dill. I’m really starting to think that I need to buy a sous vide once the world gets back to abnormal. Also, I’d love the couscous recipe if you don’t mind sharing it — oftentimes I find your accompaniments to be as interesting as the mains. 🙂

  • You’re right about the hake. Maybe monkfish too would suit SV ?

  • As intended, we had the sous-vide halibut tonight. Following your method, it was perfectly cooked and looked surprisingly like your photos! Instead of couscous, which we had last night, I served it with creamed spinach, butter, lime and cauliflower florets. It was really good. Thank you for your inspiration.

  • As an oppressed minority (ie, Catholic in England) we used to look forward eagerly to Fridays. My mother didn’t have to cook, it was fish & chips all round. Our local chipper was outstanding; fantastically crispy batter, huge hand–cut chips and the cod inside the batter was always perfectly cooked. As a very small child, it had been brown bread and butter, baked beans and fish fingers. Thankfully, my tastes developed beyond that… Being devoid of both sous vide and halibut availability, I shall try your flavouring with barramundi or flathead.

  • Reading your appetizing post earlier in the morning I chickened away from a comment ! Bad enough having admitted last time around that somehow I never ate burgers like most ‘normal’ people 🙂 ! Hiding behind Kate’s coattails now as . . . No sous vide ! No halibut ! Love steamed fish with a few Asian aromats, love Israeli couscous . . . and do hope life is treating you fair . . .

  • hi conor
    we have a fish and chip shop at the end of our street and it is very busy on friday nights! your fish dish looks very dishy:) and delish! tho a friend of ours was in hospital yesterday due to a (small) fish bone stuck in her throat. they had to knock her out to remove it. Funny you say that about when to post; i find i never want to post on a sunday. i get terrible stats so i never do it if possible. haven’t noticed about fridays.

  • That looks like a lovely piece of fish with 5 star cooking! I wonder if you can air dry the skin and make it crispy – cod skin tastes fantastic done like that, but I think it would be a lot of work for a single fish.

  • Hi Conor, good idea to salt the halibut beforehand (to improve the texture) and to add butter to the bag (so the fish won’t stick to the bag). I love the action shots and the bendy knife. The only thing that puzzles me is to cook the halibut 3 minutes per side after sous vide. as given the thickness of that halibut I’d guess that would cook it from raw. Did you perhaps allow the halibut to cool between sous vide and the pan?

  • I believe they cook it at The Willows. The skin is thick enough that, when baked for a while, it can stand on its own like a cracker. They serve it baked until crisp, then topped with dollops of a clam puree and a dusting of powdered wakame. Hank Shaw’s technique should work.

  • *big smile* Do not think I have ever thought or said ‘poor me’ in my lifetime !! Most things I do mot have are thus because I do not want to have them . . . be well . . . . . .

  • HI, Conor – Lovely post. It sounds and looks delicious enough that it may prompt me to organize a heist of a sous-vide machine currently sitting idle in one of Jody’s restaurants. Nice salt shot! I’m curious though, Why do you salt it in advance? Is it a sous-vide thing? Thanks.

    Ken

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