Mild flavored and pearly white, there is nothing like fresh halibut. I’m always happy when spring arrives and halibut comes into season. With a container of cherry tomatoes left over from a catered dinner the night before, I had my inspiration for baked halibut with roasted cherry tomatoes. An easy, healthy, delicious dinner.
While fresh halibut is pricey, I keep the portions just right and know that's it's cheaper than going to a restaurant for a nice dinner. The roasted cherry tomatoes make a terrific savory accompaniment and any leftover tomatoes are terrific.
Why You'll Like This Recipe
- Makes great use of seasonal ingredients.
- Make tomatoes ahead of time for a faster dinner.
- The flavors are absolutely delicious.
For roasted cherry tomatoes
- Tomatoes: Get cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, either all red or in a combination of colors.
- Olive oil: To toss the tomatoes in for roasting
- Garlic: Use fresh, finely chopped cloves. Zesting with a microplane is easy and fast.
- Herbs: For this recipe, fresh thyme is best.
For baked halibut
- Fresh halibut: depending on the thickness (or thinness) of your halibut filets, the method can be adjusted.
- Olive oil: Halibut is very lean, needs some fat and the flavor of olive oil is beautiful
- Lemon: Fresh lemon wedges are a nice garnish to squeeze over the top.
Substitutions and Variations
- If you can't get fresh thyme, use fresh rosemary.
- To use dried thyme or Herbs de Provence, mix the olive oil with the dried herbs and give them a little time to rehydrate to allow the flavors to bloom.
Start with the tomatoes
Toss halved tomatoes with a generous tablespoon of fresh chopped thyme leaves, a couple cloves of finely minced or zested fresh garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them until they're shriveled and browning a bit at the edges.
Roasting tomatoes develops an amazing flavor as their sweetness concentrates and the fresh thyme is a great compliment.
How to Buy Fish
When you buy fresh halibut figure 4-6 ounces per person. That’s not only portion control, but budget control. The filet I purchased was very thick; two inches to be exact. Most halibut is not this thick, but if you find it, it's terrific. Thinner filets work just fine.
Baked Halibut: Different Methods
Searing halibut on the stovetop then quickly finishing in a hot oven is a restaurant trick. The whole process takes about 10 minutes in total, but you can vary it for the halibut you have.
In the winter when I can only get thinner local halibut filets, I still make this by reducing the cooking time. For thin filets it might take just a minute or two in the oven or you might even be able to cook it just on the stove top. Fresh cod filets work too. Get what fish looks good in your local area.
For thinner filets there are two options: 1) bake in the oven with no searing, skipping the browned crust, or 2) searing then turning and finishing in the pan, stovetop. In that case what I do is splash in a little white wine, cover immediately, and finish for a few minutes.
All cooking methods are delicious, so use what works best for the halibut you buy.
How to Cook the Halibut: Sear and Roast
Season fish with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and drizzle in a little olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, place the halibut filets in the pan presentation side (or top side) down. The fish should sizzle when it hits the hot pan.
Allow the halibut to sear for about three minutes, until it has a golden crust when you peak underneath. Carefully turn the fish over and sear for one minute longer.
Place halibut on a parchment or foil lined rimmed baking sheet and roast at 425°F for approximately 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. If the filets are thinner they will roast more quickly so adjust your timing down.
How to Know When the Fish is Done
Your halibut should still be moist and barely translucent in the center, not dry and flaky. Don’t over cook it to keep it moist. If your are not sure, use a digital thermometer. The fish should reach 140°F - 145°F in the center. It will feel firm but still have just a little give.
Without a digital thermometer, do this. Test if your fish is done is by using a thin metal skewer or cake tester tool. Place it in the middle of the filet for a 5 seconds and remove it. Hold it close to your upper lip or inner wrist to feel the heat. Sounds crazy but it works. If the center is warm, not hot, the fish should be ready.
Finish and Serve
To serve, drizzle with a little finishing olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, then spoon on the tomatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley, thyme or chives if desired.
Baked Halibut with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- Non-stick pan for fish
- Half sheet baking tray for tomatoes
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- 16 ounces sweet cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh chopped thyme leaves
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 4 ounce halibut filets Thicker is better
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 lemon wedges optional
Remove halibut from refrigerator
- If the fish is cold from the refrigerator, allow it to stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to get the chill off. Start the tomatoes while the fish is warming up. Cover a rimmed backing sheet with parchment or foil and set aside for baking the halibut.
Roast the tomatoes
- Pre-heat the oven to 375°F degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment. In a small bowl, toss halved tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Spread tomatoes on the baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until shriveled and edges are just starting to turn a bit brown. Timing will depend on your oven. Mine take 25 minutes on the convection setting.
Bake the halibut
- Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a non-stick skillet or fry pan over medium heat and add oil. Season halibut with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot but not smoking, place the halibut top side down in the pan. Allow a golden crust to form, about 3 minutes. Turn the halibut over and sear 1 minute longer. Remove the halibut to your prepared baking sheet.
- Bake halibut in the oven for approximately 6 minutes for 2″ thick filets. If your filets are thinner, bake for a shorter time. When done, halibut will be moist and barely opaque in the center. Temperature should be 145°F.
- Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon, topped with the roasted cherry tomatoes. Any extra tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator well covered for a few days and can be enjoy warm or even cold in a salad.