This recipe uses a technique we’ve been following for years and that we first read about in an article by Tara Duggan for the SF Chronicle on Sylvan Brackett, chef and owner of Izakaya Rintaro. We lightly season fish fillets with a dusting (not a shower) of salt and wrap in paper towels for an hour or two before preparing. Salt draws out excess moisture and really firms up the flesh. This method works especially well with cod or halibut. Plus we’re using one of our favorite ingredients when it comes to white-fleshed fish like halibut, yuzo kosho, the fiery-hot fermented condiment of chiles, zest, and salt that you might find surreptitiously adorning the finest selection of nigiri at your local sushi spot.
1 pound California Halibut filet, skin removed
Kosher or fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice, divided
1 teaspoon yuzo kosho paste (available at Japanese markets)
1 teaspoon neutral flavored oil (we use canola)
Maldon sea salt
Shichimi togarshi for garnish (optional)
1 radish, julienned for garnish (optional)
If there is a dark red bloodline on the halibut, slice away that part of the fillet (our black Labrador is usually the recipient of this trim but you can use it in other dishes).
Very lightly dust (not shower) both sides of the filet with salt. we use Guisto’s South San Francisco sea salt, which has a nice fine grain. It’s available in the bulk section at Rainbow Grocery. Kosher salt would work just as well.
Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels, place the filet in the middle. Add another layer of paper towels on top and let rest for 1-3 hours in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, make the avocado crema.
Halve the avocado, removing the pit, and scoop out both sides of the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Add the crème fraiche and one tablespoon of the lemon juice and pulse until smooth. Alternatively, smash the avocado until smooth in a mixing bowl. Add the teaspoon of the yuzo kosho paste and pulse again until fully integrated. Taste for seasoning. You are aiming for a strong and spicy crema with the vibrant flavor of the yuzu kosho shining through. Depending on the size of the avocado, you may have to add a bit more yuzo kosho to make the flavor really stand out.
Cover the crema by pressing a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface (to prevent browning and oxidation) and refrigerate until serving.
Chill 4 small cereal bowls (similar in size to the photo above) until ready to serve.
About ½ hour before serving, remove the halibut from the fridge. The paper towels will be spotted with moisture and the flesh should be firm and shiny. We use this basic technique for preparing any white fleshed fish, cod and sole before frying or roasting.
Slice the filet into 1/2-inch strips and then into 1/2-inch cubes.
In a mixing bowl, stir together 2 teaspoons neutral flavored oil and two teaspoons lemon juice.
Add the halibut cubes and gently toss until coated. This helps to keep the cubes separate when served in a bowl, versus clumping together.
Remove the serving bowls and the crema from the fridge. With a spoon, smear about one tablespoon of crema onto the inside of each bowl. You’ll have plenty of crema left over, which presumably you’ll have no trouble finding a use for 😉
Divide the halibut evenly into the four bowls and sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt (we use Maldon). Add a healthy pinch of togarashi and radish on top (optional) and serve immediately. Ideally served with chopsticks so you can grab a piece of the halibut and swipe it into the avocado crema before eating.
Yuzo Kosho: We find it at Nijiya Market in Japantown. You’ll have to ask for it, as it seems to be in a different shelf location every time we’ve been back to grab a new bottle and the label may be in all Japanese.
Sake pairing: Den Sake Brewery’s Batch #9 was released in January 2020. From Yoshiro Sako’s tasting notes: “Aromas of musk melon, kiwi, fresh pine nuts and enoki mushroom. Popping acidity offers solid structure on palate, with gentle briny umami tail on the finish.” It’s a wine drinker’s sake for sure and that acidity cuts through the richness of this type of dish.
Photo: Bruce Cole
Keywords: halibut, avocado, yuzo kosho