You know spring can’t be far behind when the first halibut lands in Alaska. Pacific halibut is considered one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world. Captain Tim Abena of the F/V Big Blue fishes halibut using selective hook and line gear, with a small secondary catch of (delicious) rockfish. His first halibut of the season was caught in Prince William Sound’s Two Arm Bay, landed in Homer, headed, gutted, and shipped via FedEx to arrive next day in the lower 48.
Unlike Atlantic halibut, which was severely overfished and has yet to recover, the Alaska halibut fishery has a robust scientific management system, ensuring a long and abundant season that stretches until November. The largest of all flatfish, halibut can grow to over 300 pounds. More commonly 15-30 pounds, Alaska halibut is prized for its mild, sweet flavor, firm texture, and spectacular results whether grilled, roasted, sautéed, or poached.
The season’s first halibut made its way this week to Walker’s Drive-In in Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson isn’t a city known for its food scene, but chef Derek Emerson and his wife Jennifer have set the bar high, turning an old 1950’s diner into a local culinary favorite. There’s nothing quite like the beautiful white flake of halibut, and chef Derek did it justice with his preparation of pan-seared halibut with roasted garlic, white bean purée, sous vide hearts of palm, and sea bean salad. We think Captain Abena should be proud.
Captain Abena and Chef Derek are prime examples of the kinds of independent producers and tastemakers we like to celebrate. But neither is entirely self-sufficient. Just as the independent Alaska halibut fisherman needs an outside market to survive, and relies on chefs who care about top-notch seafood, a chef can’t ultimately create great dishes without great products and the good work of the producers who catch and grow their food. As spring progresses and new fish land at our docks, we’re grateful for this kind of inter-reliance.