Monday, January 26, 2009


Halibut is halibut, just a nice white fish that is best suited for fish'n'chips, right?
Well, thanks to the aquaculturalists down in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, it's time to think again.
I've been working with Brian Blanchard of Scotian Halibut (follow the link at the top) to bring in some of the freshest, most interesting, environmentally friendly cultured fish I've seen to date.

Firstly, the fish is grown in an "on land facility", which means that the fish is not impacting on the ocean as much as an open pen fish farm. Actually, the water for the fish comes from the bay, but is filtered on the way in to purify, and extract any parasites, and then if filtered on the way out as well. This helps eliminate the contamination from concentrated levels of any left over fish feed and, fish poop. The poop is actually converted into fertilizer, much like that of a regular land-based farm.

What happens is, that the fish is left to grow, and feed and the facility until it reaches a weight of about 5 lbs, (about 2 years) which is when they harvest the fish and send it to Starfish, and  few other lucky restaurants.

When the fish lands at the back door, it is still stiff with rigor - gross for some, but dead sexy for me and the fresh fish lovers out there. Then the fish gets slimy, (I know I'm talkin' durty to you now...) as all fish will get slimy, because, mucus is extruded off of the outer flesh. What you are left with is great, fresh fish. Any fresher, and you'd have to take the hook out yourself!

At this point, I call Dr. Fishhead. As the name implies, he dances at the thought of licking at the cartilage of a fresh-grilled Halibut head - those cheeks, tounges, and the collar - my-oh-my!

 Chef Kyle then butchers the fish, and preps it for service, where he will lightly season the halibut, and roast it on the bone. The dish, as photographed, is so large, we have to serve it as a shared dish, and  most say it is too much for two - closer to a three person dish - unless you are a Dr. Fishhead as well...
The other benefit of the environmentally clean way the fish is grown, is that I take some of the flesh, and serve it on my sashimi plate. Normally, fresh wild halibut is not allowed to be eaten as it lives on the ocean floor, and therefore is susceptible to parasites. No, it is not a bottom feeder! Halibut is actually quite an active predatory fish, lying in wait, camouflaged on the floor, until an unsuspecting fish swims by, then SNAP-O! Lunch! 

Kyle is serving the Halibut for two with a celeriac puree, oyster mushrooms, carrots and a sage brown butter.

Call and I can save you a head too, but I've gotta pass it by the Doc first!

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