Greek halibut

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Nick Roumel

My friend Charles was recently extolling the virtues of halibut, which he purchased at his favorite store, Costco (he calls it “Cost Mo’”). I have always known Charles to be a master of all manner of fish and seafood, and since I couldn’t even recall the last time I’d tried it, I decided it was time to purchase some at my favorite fishmonger.
I scanned the display case. There they were, alabaster halibut filets, in a perfect row leading to a hand-lettered tag: “Halibut! Only $49.95 lb.!” Since we all know that the word “only” makes things suddenly affordable, I got half a pound.

Then I had to figure out how to cook it. The fishmonger recommended baking, but Charles nixed that, assuring me that grilling was the only way to go. I looked at a Food and Wine cookbook that recommended braising halibut steaks with shrimp and mushrooms. As I had foolishly neglected to purchase shrimp with my spare change, I had to go a different way.

I am not ashamed to say I went the Google route, and immediately hit on a recipe that struck me with its appeal, simplicity, and gaudy five-star reviews: Greek-style halibut.
Yes, the author quickly disclaimed; halibut is not Greek. But this cold-water ocean flatfish is especially suited for a hearty Greek style treatment, including the holy troika of olive oil, garlic and lemon. (Not to mention the first ingredient off the bench, should any of the holy troika be unavailable, that being oregano.)

There is no way around it. Halibut is an ugly fish, with both eyes on the same side of the head and odd coloring. It’s easy to make fun of, and finds itself the butt of many a Monty Python skit. But it is sublime - the filet mignon of fish, mild yet savory, rich and complex, with a texture that is firm but flaky, like slices of butter.
And if the Greeks fished the North Atlantic, this is exactly how they’d prepare it.


Greek Style Grilled Halibut

(greek.food.com)

Ingredients:
1 1⁄2 lbs halibut fillets
1⁄4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 teaspoons fresh Greek oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Combine olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper in a zip lock bag. Mix the marinade and add halibut and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat grill. Remove halibut from bag and place on hot very WELL OILED grill.

Grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Place fish and don’t move for 4 minutes* or it will fall apart.

Fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork and is opaque all the way through.

*I wonder how many of you will be standing like a statue, watching the kitchen timer, petrified that one false move will ruin dinner? Now there’s a Monty Python joke for you.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor.

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