Poached Halibut

Poached Halibut

When halibut is in season, I can’t get enough.  Roasted, pan seared or poached — it’s all good.

One of my favourite ways to serve halibut is poached in a classic fish broth enriched with a bit of butter.  If you’ve got compound butter on hand, even better.

The simplicity of the dish requires the freshest of fish, homemade stock and garden fresh vegetables.  Nothing else will do.

This recipe originally appeared in EAT Magazine May/June 2011

Serves 4

2 pounds fresh halibut, skin removed and cut into four portions
3 shallots, diced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in half
½ cup dry white wine
6 cups home-made halibut stock
1 sprig thyme
1 – 2 Thai chili peppers, seeds removed
salt and pepper, to taste
12 ounces fresh green beans, topped, tailed and blanched*
¾ cup fresh peas blanched* or frozen peas, thawed but not cooked
1 tablespoon butter, for the blanched vegetables
fresh dill or fennel sprigs for garnish


In a wide, straight-sided saucepan, deep enough to poach the halibut, saute the shallots in 2 tablespoons of butter until translucent. Increase the heat and add the white wine; cook until the wine has evaporated and almost no liquid remains. Add the fish stock, thyme and chili pepper(s) and bring the liquid to a gentle simmer (not a boil).

Generously season the halibut pieces with salt and pepper and add them to the simmering stock; the liquid should cover at least three-quarters of the halibut (the top portion of the halibut will be steamed). Poach, loosely covered, for about 7 minutes. To test the fish for doneness, make a small slit with a paring knife in the thickest part of the fillet; all but the center of each piece should be opaque. Remove the fish before it is completely cooked through. The residual heat will continue cooking the fish. Transfer the fish to warmed soup bowls and tent with foil.

Bring the poaching stock to a boil and reduce the liquid by about half. Remove the chili pepper(s) from the stock, a generous pinch of salt and whisk in 2 tablespoons of butter or, if you have it on hand, compound butter. Taste the broth for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.

In a small pan, briefly saute the blanched vegetables in 1 tablespoon of butter to warm them through. Season with salt, if necessary.

Pour the stock around the poached halibut and add the warmed vegetables. Garnish with fresh dill or fennel sprigs.

* To blanch vegetables, fill a large pot with generously salted water (about 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt for every 8 cups of water).  Bring the water to a boil and add the vegetables, one variety at a time, and cook just tender but still firm. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water to prevent further cooking. Drain the vegetables.

6 Responses to “Poached Halibut”
  1. Brenda says:

    Thanks for this. We’re eating and enjoying more fish, so I’m going to give the recipe a try. Just wondering… would you use a similar method to poach salmon?

    • Denise says:

      Thanks for dropping by, Brenda.

      Yes, of course, you could poach salmon rather than halibut but stick to halibut bones for your stock, as salmon is too oily a fish to make a good stock.

      One more tip — make sure to remove the fish from its poaching liquid BEFORE it’s completely cooked. The residual heat will continue to cook the fish as you put together the finishing touches.

      Good luck Brenda and let me know how you make out.

  2. Nancy P. says:

    This looks so light and fresh, perfect for a warm summer evening. I’m also interested in hearing if this will work with other fish. And is it okay to use other fish bones to make the stock?

    • Denise says:

      Any type of fish can be poached, Nancy. The thickness of the fish, of course, determines the poaching time. Test the fish with the tip of a knife and remove it from the poaching liquid BEFORE it’s completely done. As mentioned to Brenda, residual heat continues to cook the fish. It’s no wonder fish is often served overcooked!

      White fish, like halibut and cod, are best for fish stock. Stay away from oily or fatty fish like salmon, trout and mackerel.

      Good luck.

  3. Shari says:

    You always provide such delicious, easy recipes. Keep up the great work!

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