Supporting local food suppliers has never been more important, be it restaurant, local grocer, farmer or commercial fishermen. Here in Gloucester, lobstermen are out of work with the demand for lobster, from China and our local restaurants, gone for now. Our local dragger and gill net fleets, already dealing with tight restrictions in the best of times, are now at risk with so many places closed.
In both cases there is plenty of supply, but demand and the supply chain that supports it are struggling. If dealers can’t sell the fish, they won’t buy the fish, which mean the fishermen won’t catch the fish. Commercial fishing is a very capital-intensive business, when a fishing boat is not making money, it is losing money. As we still await the coronavirus peak here in the US, there is no telling how long our fleet will continue to fish, so I’m trying to do my part as long as I can afford it.
Where I live, fresh seafood has an easier route to the store than eggs, steak and apparently flour. Steve Connolly Seafood on the Gloucester waterfront is part of the Gloucester Fresh program and unlike the meat counter at the local supermarket, their supply comes straight off the boats. I paid them a visit the other day and left with some haddock, which I froze for later, and 1.75 pounds of Atlantic halibut fillets.
I recently made some halibut that I got at Whole Foods (back in the Before Time) which was delicious. However Gloucester’s Mayor Sefatia reminded me on LinkedIn to get Gloucester Fresh halibut next time. Our Mayor is both a healthcare and fisheries advocate as well as a great communicator, keeping our community updated as the pandemic starts to grip Cape Ann.
Atlantic Halibut From Steve Connolly’s Seafood
This is my go-to spot for fresh seafood and on this last visit the variety was down, as expected, but there was plenty of cod, haddock, lobster meat, and halibut in both fillet and steaks. Halibut is never cheap, but at $17.95 a pound it is hard to say no.
The fillets were in great shape, with the skin on. When I opened the package I noticed I got one fillet from the top of the halibut (the dark skin) and one fillet from the belly (the white skin).
A little history: At the start of the American halibut industry, which began here in Gloucester in the 1840’s, they created a grading system for halibut based on the color of the belly skin. The “whites” got the best price, next were “yellows” for fish that did not have pure white skin. A third grade were for “sours” for fish in bad shape often with grayish belly skin. There was no difference in quality between the “whites” and “yellows” but there certainly was a difference in price paid to the fishermen…some things never change.
My original idea was to pan roast the halibut with an herb topping, like several recipes I saw online. However as dinner time approached, and my energy level dipping, I decided to make the topping but roast the halibut instead. I know it would be better if I pan roasted the fish, but oven roasting takes care of itself, while I work on a side dish.
Oven-Roasted Gloucester Halibut With Herb Topping
- 1.5-2lbs Fresh Halibut
- 1-2 Slices of Day-Old Bread or 10-15 Saltine Crackers
- 2 Tbsp Dried Herb Mixture (Parsley, Rosemary Dill, Thyme)
- 1 Lemon: Zest and Juice
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 425F. Put bread, herbs, zest, butter, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse to a course texture. The topping should be very green and fragrant with the herbs so add more if needed. Place in a small bowl and add lemon juice to make a moist paste. Take halibut fillets, portion if necessary, and season well before placing on a parchment lined baking sheet. Top with the herb mixture and roast for 15-20 minutes. When done, slide fish spatula under the fillets to remove the skin.
After thinking about all the hands touching produce, I was apprehensive about getting fresh herbs like parsley. I already had plenty of dried herbs but I got a container of semi-dried parsley that was a perfect compromise. I kept the biggest fillet of halibut for myself, but I cut the other fillet in two for my wife. Problem is, my knives are horrible and could not cut through the touch skin, fortunately my kitchen shears did the job. The fish was done in just under 20 minutes and I served it atop couscous with mushrooms, grape tomatoes and shallots sauteed in butter and vermouth.
The Verdict: How Was The Halibut?
The halibut was perfectly cooked and very moist, which was good since I forgot to add butter to my topping, making it a little dry. Otherwise it was delicious and although it looks similar to many of my other baked fish recipes, the herb combo with lots of parsley and rosemary gave it a different flavor. I heard that rosemary and halibut go well together and now I’m a believer. I might play around with this concept in the future, I especially want to try the pan roasted variant. However I’m pretty sure a topping like this would be good on just about anything, not just seafood.
Stay well everyone, and follow the protocols to keep everybody safe. All things must pass…