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How to Grill Halibut

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Foodwise, November is a rich and calorific month. We crave comfort food like soups and stews, braised meats, and mac and cheese. And that’s before the belt-busting Thanksgiving feast.

If you’re ready for a break from heavier meals, consider a healthier option, grilled fish. We’re especially fond of halibut, a meaty but mild-tasting fish that thrives in colder waters and can attain weights of over 400 pounds.

But it’s a problem that bedevils grillers all over Planet Barbecue: How do you keep tender fish fillets from sticking to the grill grate? One solution is to grill the seafood in a hinged grill basket. Oil it well before using.

Or borrow a technique from the Thai grill masters Steven met when researching his recipe-packed book, Planet Barbecue. It has the added advantage of sealing in such vibrant Asian flavors as lemongrass and Thai basil.

And the results look cool as all get-out. The fish is wrapped in flavorful banana leaves, which turn up throughout Asia, not to mention in Latin America and the Caribbean. The charred banana leaf imparts an herbaceous smoke flavor, but if banana leaves are not available (we buy them frozen from Melissas.com), you can substitute grape leaves or aluminum foil and still get great results. If you are lucky enough to have fresh banana leaves, be sure they come from a tree that has not been treated with pesticides. To make a fresh banana leaf pliable, you’ll need to soften it by grilling it or heating it over the burner of a stove for 15 to 30 seconds per side. Don’t skip the Honey Lime Dipping Sauce, which makes a wonderful accompaniment.

BANANA LEAF PACKETS

Banana Leaf Packets

Halibut is generally sold in two forms: fillets and steaks. Because steaks are quite large and can contain bones and skin, we prefer fillets. Any white fish, such as mahimahi, would work well, too. It cooks quickly—about 3 to 5 minutes per side.

Other ingredients that are not common in all markets are coriander root and Thai basil. The coriander roots have a sweeter, earthier flavor than the coriander leaves (usually called cilantro, but you could certainly substitute fresh cilantro. Thai basil has smaller leaves and a more pungent licorice flavor than Italian basil, but again, you could substitute the latter. Both ingredients are available in Asian and Indian markets, or can be ordered online at ImportFood Thai Supermarket.

Halibut Grilled in Banana Leaves with Lemongrass and Thai Basil

HALIBUT

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