TCD 001| Pan Roasted Halibut, Tomato-Panzanella Salad, Lemon-Caper Beurre Blanc

We kick off our new recipe video series, "The Completed Dish," with a video on how to make our top selling entree. Not a night goes by that a guest doesn't request this recipe and the best part is, it's extremely simple. There are a few background techniques that you should understand first, like pan roasting a piece of fish and how to make a beurre blanc sauce.

We've shot video on all these techniques and some more that are mentioned in this video. For more information, check out the links below.

Site Categories

There are 22 Comments

Cathy G's picture

I am a long way from being a chef. I studied this video and associated videos again and again. I had to make many compromises, like being unable to get halibut in February, (I used Haddock) and not achieving a foamy layer to remove from my attempt to clarify butter, among other things; but the dish still came out fabulous! -Especially the lemon caper beurre blanc. (The leftover sauce has flavored other dishes very nicely! - Thank you Jacob! People are still talking about this meal!

JimmyJoeBillyBob's picture

I grill a lot of fresh salmon, but always wreck halibut when I try the same method. This looks such a better way to keep the moisture in.


I'll be fishing in Alaska this summer for halibut and salmon.  I'll be making this dish often as well as halibut ceviche. I went through your entire food science section on brining, and I expect my results with hot-smoked salmon (finish w. glaze of single malt scotch, maple syrup and brown sugar) will improve from here too.


Thanks again for the fantastic web resource, Jacob!  It's amazing material.

JimmyJoeBillyBob's picture

Definitely will do.  The AK trip is in late summer, so it will take a while though.

And the glaze IS awesome.  Can't say I invented it, but did settle on the idea only after poring through lots of recipes. The glaze definitely gives it an attitude I've never before encountered in smoked fish.  Super tasty and aromatic, evoking fine memories of camp fires, pancakes with maple syrup at the fire house, and a favorite adult beverage.  My scotch loving golf/fishing buddies all tell me it's the best they've had. By the way, it works even better on the Lake Tahoe Mackinaw I have caught and smoked. You could serve that as an appetizer local-food theme special some time.

I just made a batch yesterday and once again found it is not very tasty on the day of the cook (too salty) but improves markedly after a day in the fridge. The salt diffusion process must continue even after the fish is removed from the brine and then smoked. This is why I found my way to your site again today - looking for an explanation to the phenomenon and any improvements I could make in the brining step.

I might like for the result to be a bit moister and more tender, and maybe less salty tasting than what I get when doing an overnight dry brine, but am not sure. I have a number of experiments I want to do now, varying the brining time, etc. Maybe 6 hours brining time would be more than plenty.  I smoke it at low temp (200 - 225 deg. F) in a vertical water smoker a couple/few hours until internal temp = 145 measured on a Thermapen, then glaze and let smoke for another 30 min.  Then pull off, glaze again and air dry with a fan for an hour until glaze is almost tacky. Anyway, thanks again and cheers!

jacob burton's picture

If you want to experiment with the fish being less dry and salty, a wet brine might be a good route. It will add more moisture which can work as a good buffer when smoking something as delicate as fish. Just a thought. I've always enjoyed my smoked fish to be a little on the salty and dry side. It reminds of the salmon jerky me and my friend used to eat as kids (his mom lived in Alaska and he'd go up there every summer).


Wish I could serve the mackinaw out of Lake Tahoe, but they don't allow any commercial fishing or the selling of any fish that's caught (which is probably a good thing). I'll have to catch some for my personal stash and give your method a shot.

JimmyJoeBillyBob's picture

Thanks for the idea, Jacob! I'll try that on half the next batch for comparison.  Like I said, the taste changes so much after a day in the fridge, the product (of the overnight dry brine)  seems perfect now. The salt is perfectly balanced by the sweetness. I just smoked 5 lbs of fish, and it's disappearing fast. I think I need a bigger smoker now.  Goes great with pale ale, btw.

I remember seeing that salmon jerky in the shops in AK when I went there last time.  They made every conceivable thing from the abundant salmon there. 

And it's definitely a good thing no commercial resale is allowed of your Mackinaw. The lake would be barren by now, it is soooo good. Personal use only is a great idea. So, here are my notes on what I do: Keep smoker temp low (200 - 225). Combine one 12 oz bottle real maple syrup, 12 fl oz Balvenie 12-yr old Doublewood Scotch (Dewar's works just as well, btw) plus 1/2 cup (or so) brown sugar. After internal temp = 145, glaze the fillets and smoke for another 30 min.  After pulling, glaze again.  Then sprinkle more dark brown sugar on top - no more than will easily dissolve.  Then let air dry on a rack for an hour or so with a fan to help, until the glaze on fish is thick, not runny. Then I vacuum bag each portion and try hard to wait one full day before consuming any.  It's worth the wait. Enjoy!

JimmyJoeBillyBob's picture

BTW, I do realize how ridiculous it is for me to be telling you how to cook anything. I just wanted to be complete in case you do decide to try that sometime.  Have a nice day!.

jacob burton's picture

It's not ridiculous at all. I'm always learning and you'd be surprised where some of my information and inspiration comes from.

JimmyJoeBillyBob's picture

Hi Jacob.  Congratulations on your upcoming award (I voted!) Also, I wanted to get back to you since I just made another batch of my smoked salmon. I didn't wet brine this batch, but I did reduce the brine time in the dry brine to just three hours (down from almost 24 hrs).  It was much more to my liking - much more moist and less salty than my old recipe.  I suppose this new recipe I used is considered more of an entree style of smoking salmon, whereas my old one was an appetizer style to be accompanied with copious amount of beer to counteract the saltiness. Anyway, congrats again. I hope you win!

jacob burton's picture

Thanks for the update on the salmon. Sounds like you did more of a "fresh smoke" than a preserving smoke.

Stubert's picture


Thoughts on making the Beurre Blanc sauce, maybe an hour ahead of time, and storing it in a thermos to keep it warm?


Mikeferrari's picture

Chef, I am new and love this! I am a "decent" home cook with no training. I watch videos, copy, and serve. Everyone thinks I'm great but I know I am not. So a course like yours is exactly what I need. So, I found you by searching for a recipe for pan roasted halibut. I had this beautiful fillet and didn't want to screw it up. Watched, learned, and did it. BUT . . .as good as it looks, the crust was tough as shoe leather. The halibut underneath was great, but I want more than a pretty picture. I wish I knew how to post a picture of my finished dish (no shallots so I made a bacon corn relish for it instead) but I don't know how. Where did I go wrong? Thanks.

jacob burton's picture

@ Mike,

That's interesting. I've never had that problem before. The picture that you sent me via e-mail looked absolutely perfect.

When you say as tough as shoe leather, does that mean that the crust was really chewy?

Mikeferrari's picture

A little chewy but mostly just hard, hard, hard. Couldn't cut it with fork; didn't try a knife. The fish underneath was great, but that thing on top, pretty as it was, would have been better suited to a catcher's mitt :). Maybe I seared too long? Used my favorite cast iron skillet. Made two of these in the same pan, which made the pan size fine. I seared in canola/ghee mix. Both came out identically.

jacob burton's picture

Yeah, it looked great. When you get a crust like that, you normally will attack it with a butter knife and fork, and it will be crispy, but pleasantly so. Next time you can try throwing a pat of butter in the pan after pulling it from the oven. As the butter melts, it should soften the crust a little bit.

It is possible that the cast iron pan gave you a thicker crust than normal, but unlikely.

I wish I could be of more help, but your crust looked great in the photo you sent me, so I don't really know what else to say.

Mikeferrari's picture

Thanks, chef. As I progress through your classes I am going to learno much, one day I may learn how to solve this. This was not crunchy at all, and a butter knife would have skidded right off. Will try again. One thing I know how to do is sear fish in my cast iron. No stick. The oven finish was new to me. Normally I would have flipped this and finished in the pan with a little brown butter, but this was a thicker cut than we normally find here.

jacob burton's picture

Give a stainless steel pan a shot, like the one I used in the video. I've never pan roasted with a cast iron because it's heavy and awkward when doing it for dinner service. I generally save my cast iron just for searing (and Chicago style pizzas).

Maybe the superior heat retention of the cast iron pan generated a thicker crust without actually burning the fish. It's the only thing I can think of, and at the very least, its worth a test.

Mikeferrari's picture

I can see the problem of castiron in a commercial kitchen but honestly this pan has helped me become a better cook. Usually only cook for my wife and myself and, having no kitchen help :) the cast iron is so much easier to clean. I need to learn better to regulate the heat.