Halibut, a large member of the flatfish family, thrives in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The average hailbut weighs in somewhere between 30 and 50 pounds, but they can get up to almost 500. Smaller fish, weighing between 2 and 10 pounds, are called chicken halibut and are considered the finest.
Firm, white, and mild flavored, halibut is well-suited for just about every cooking method. Its subtle flavor should not be overpowered by aggressive sauces or marinades. Halibut pairs well with tarragon and chives, potatoes, and juicy greens like spinach and Swiss chard.
Halibut is available year-round but it's abundant from March through September. Pacific halibut, unlike Atlantic halibut, comes from well-managed fisheries that have not suffered the steep population decline affecting Atlantic halibut. Also, Pacific ocean temperatures are colder year-round, so the halibut isn’t prey to the warm-water-loving parasites that make Atlantic halibut an iffy proposition in all but the coldest months.
You can substitute another firm white fish like sea bass, snapper, or monkfish.
When buying fish fillets, examine the flesh, which should be moist and glistening and without any large gaps.
Dry-looking flesh is a sign of age. Fresh fish should not smell strong or fishy but should have a mild, fresh scent suggestive of the sea.
Halibut takes well to almost any preparation; we especially like to grill, roast, and sauté it. But with its delicate flavor and texture, halibut gives its best performance when just barely cooked through. Overcook it, and it’ll be very dry.
Like all fish, halibut should be stored in the coldest part of your refrigerator and used soon after buying. To slow down spoilage, try this: Put whole fish or fillets in a large strainer set over a bowl. Pile ice high on top of the fish and refrigerate. The ice keeps the fish close to 32°F, and as it melts, the water continually rinses off bacteria and drains it into the bowl. Or put the haddock in a plastic bag and set the bag on ice to maintain a temperature close to 33°F (spoilage occurs twice as fast at 40°F as it does at 32°).