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"Hippo of the sea" is the translation of the Latin hippoglossus. "Holy flatfish" is the English derivation ÄÄ hali for holy, but for flat.
It was a special fish for holy days in Medieval England.
Halibut is a member of the flounder family; specifically the right-eye flounder, signifying which side of the flat body the eyes are on.
Related to soles, sand dabs and other flatfish, the halibut far outweighs them all, reaching as high as 500 pounds. Like other flatfish, the halibut has skin that is mottled brown on the top side to blend into the ocean floor. The bottom, seldom seen by predators, is snowy white.
Pacific halibut is vastly more plentiful than Atlantic halibut, which is caught in very small numbers and is not commercially significant.
Nearly all of the Pacific halibut are caught in the North Pacific, although they venture as far south as Northern California. California has its own halibut called, simply enough, California halibut. It looks much like the Pacific halibut but is much smaller.
Halibut flesh should be translucent, shiny white. When halibut are frozen, they are generally frozen whole, which maintains the flesh at a peak of quality. Carefully frozen halibut, when thawed and portioned, should have the same translucent look that fresh does.
Flesh with a milky, opaque white color, blotches or yellowish tinges indicates poor freezing or handling.
Halibut is sold in the form of steaks or fillet pieces. Steaks, crosscut sections of the fish, vary widely in size since the fish is broad in the middle and tapered at the ends. Halibut fillets are always boneless. Steaks generally have bones, but end pieces do not.
In 1993, about 30,000 tons of Pacific halibut was caught in Alaska, British Columbia, and down the West Coast. Over 90 percent of the Pacific catch comes from the Gulf of Alaska.
With halibut now being caught from the spring to the fall, fresh halibut is more commonly available. Frozen halibut will still be available and is a very good alternative. Spring, early summer and early fall should be the most abundant seasons, so prices should be most reasonable then.
For a lean fish, halibut has a pleasantly distinctive flavor.
However, it is still mild enough to adapt well to a wide variety of flavor combinations. Like many other fish, halibut is very versatile in the kitchen. It has the added characteristic of firm flesh that holds together well, so it is even more adaptable than delicate white fish. Try marinating it before cooking to enhance its lean, mild flavor.
Halibut is a lean fish with good nutritional balance. Each 3« ounce serving contains 110 calories, 2.3 g total fat, .3 g saturated fat, 32 mg cholesterol, 54 mg sodium and 21 g protein.
Simply Seafood Winter 1995
Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 01-19-95