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Poached Halibut with Cilantro Cream and Oranges

(recipe, Helen Rennie)

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  1. 4 halibut fillets without skin (6 to 8 ounces each)
  2. 1 cup fish stock or water (plus more as needed)
  3. ½ cup dry white wine (plus more as needed)
  4. 1 Tbsp. butter at room temperature (plus more for buttering parchment paper)
  5. 1 Tbsp. flour
  6. ¼ cup heavy cream
  7. 2 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
  8. 2 blood or navel oranges, sectioned
  9. Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Set an oven-proof skillet that is just large enough to hold the fillets in one layer over high heat. Add enough fish stock and wine so that the liquid is ¾-inch deep (use the ratio of 2 parts stock to 1 part wine). When the liquid comes to a boil, turn down the heat so that it simmers gently.
  3. Cut out a circle of parchment paper the size of your skillet and heavily butter one side.
  4. Season the halibut with salt and pepper on both sides and add it to the simmering liquid. Cover with buttered parchment paper, and tuck the paper inside the skillet so that it touches the liquid and forms a bubble around the fish. This will keep the fish moist, but will let enough steam escape so that the liquid stays at a bare simmer.
  5. Place the skillet in the oven and cook fish for 8 minutes per inch of thickness. To check for doneness, separate the flakes with a fork. Fish is done if the flakes separate without much resistance even if some parts still look translucent.
  6. Remove the fish to warm serving plates with a spatula and a spoon. Cover with foil to keep warm while finishing the sauce.
  7. Pour the poaching liquid into a measuring cup. Discard all but 1 cup of liquid. Pour it back into the skillet and set it over high heat. Reduce the liquid for 3 to 5 minutes, down to roughly two-thirds of a cup.
  8. While the liquid is reducing, mash 1 Tbsp butter with 1 Tbsp flour in a small bowl using a fork until they form a smooth paste (beurre manié).
  9. Turn down the heat under the poaching liquid to medium and whisk in the flour-butter paste. Whisk vigorously until no lumps remain and the sauce thickens slightly. Whisk in cream and herbs. As soon as the sauce comes to a simmer, take it off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  10. Pour the sauce over the fish. Top with the orange sections and serve with good bread for dipping.


Good fish substitutions include sole, flounder, cod, haddock, hake, or any other mild white fish. If using thin fillets (like sole or flounder), fold them in half. Got questions about butter or cream (or other cooking fats)? Check out Helen Rennie’s column on which fats are best in which recipes.