Herb Crusted Wild Pacific Halibut with Pea Purée and Coriander Vinaigrette


By: James Walt
Adapted from the recipe created by Executive Chef James Walt as featured in the cookbook Araxi: Seasonal Recipes from the Celebrated Whistler Restaurant.

Chef’s Note: To me, this dish combines all the flavours of summer on one plate. The crust in this recipe can be used to coat meats, poultry or vegetables. Experiment with different herbs and greens, such as arugula or sorrel leaves.


Herb-Crusted Wild Pacific Halibut

  • 1 ½ oz (40 g) - fresh herb leaves (such as basil, parsley, chervil or tarragon) about ¾ cup/180 mL

  • 1 oz (30 g) - spinach, washed and trimmed, about ½ cup/125 mL

  • 1 cup (250 mL) - grated Gruyère cheese

  • ½ cup (125 mL) - unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 ¾ cups (435 mL) - dry bread crumbs

  • 4 fillets - Wild Pacific halibut, each 5 to 6 oz/140 to 170 g, skin on but bones removed

  • 2 tsp (10 mL) - olive oil

Place the herbs and the spinach in a food processor and purée for 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the Gruyère cheese and the butter and purée until well combined.  Pour in the bread crumbs, lightly season with salt and process until the mixture comes together.

Cut two 11 x 16-inch/30 x 40-cm sheets of parchment paper and place one on a baking sheet. Spread the bread crumb mixture onto the parchment paper, cover with the second sheet, then use a rolling pin to roll the bread crumb mixture to a thickness of 1/8 inch/3 mm. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the crust to set.

Cut the crust into 4 pieces, each one large enough to cover one side of one fillet. Return these cut pieces to the refrigerator.


Pea Purée

  • ¼ cup (60 mL) - unsalted butter

  • 1 - small white onion, finely chopped

  • 2 oz (60 g) - bacon, about 4 to 5 slices, cut in small dice

  • 1 cup (250 mL) - fresh shucked peas or thawed frozen peas

  • 2/3 cup (165 mL) - chicken stock

  • 1 - medium potato, peeled and cut in small dice

  • 1 sprig - mint

  • 1 sprig - thyme

  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) - whipping cream

Heat half of the butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add the onions and the bacon and sauté until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in half of the peas and the chicken stock, potato, mint and thyme and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until the potato is tender, about 8 minutes. Remove and discard the mint and thyme sprigs. Add the remaining peas and cook for 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat, lightly season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a food processor or a blender and purée until smooth. Stir in the cream and set aside.

Coriander Vinaigrette

  • 2 tsp (10 mL) - coriander seeds

  • 1 cup (250 mL) - olive oil

  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) - fresh lemon juice

  • 3 - Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut in ¼-inch/5-mm dice

  • 16 - asparagus tips, blanched for 2 minutes and refreshed in cold water

  • 2 tsp (10 mL) - oregano leaves, for garnish

Crush the coriander seeds using a mortar and pestle, then place them in a sauté pan and warm them gently on low heat to release their flavour.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice, then add the coriander and a pinch of salt, Set aside.

Finish Wild Pacific Halibut

  1. Preheat the oven 375° F/190° C. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

  2. Arrange the halibut on the baking sheet. Lightly season with salt, then place a herb crust atop each fillet. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until the crust is crisp and the halibut is slightly opaque in the middle. Remove from the oven.

To Serve

Warm the vinaigrette in a saucepan on low heat. Add the tomatoes and the asparagus and heat through. Divide the pea purée among the 4 plates, mounding it in the centre of each plate. Top each serving with a halibut fillet, then spoon a generous amount of vinaigrette around each plate. Garnish with the oregano leaves.

Serves 4

Recipe copyright ©2009 by James Walt. Douglas & McIntyre. All rights reserved. Featured with permission.