Tender halibut filets are pan-seared and served golden with a sweet French lemon-dill beurre blanc sauce.
When I was in culinary school, I remember seeing a flyer that displayed a perfectly cooked and plated piece of halibut fillet. I remember thinking that I wanted to be able to execute something so beautiful in the kitchen by the time I graduate.
I finally got the chance to learn how to properly pan-sear fish during my Art Culinaire class, where we studied the cuisines of top chefs from around the world. I learned that a hot pan, sizzling oil, dry surface on the fish, and a little bit of patience and attention helped create the beautiful pan-seared crust on any fish.
I want to share this pan-seared halibut with a lemon dill sauce recipe with you because it really is very simple to make!
Whenever I see halibut featured on a menu, I get excited because it’s such an elegant fish. Halibut has a pretty firm flesh, so it can stand up to heat very well, which makes it easy to achieve a beautiful golden-brown crust. I love how the contrast of the ivory-colored flesh looks against the crisp golden crust on the surface of the halibut.
The flavor of halibut is very mild, which is great because you can create a flavorful sauce to really enhance the taste of the fish. Halibut may seem like a difficult fish to master in the saute pan. However, it really is super easy, just a little practice on the searing technique and you will impress your friends and family without breaking a sweat.
I bought my first set of All-Clad stainless steel pans when I graduated from culinary school, and I find them to be perfect for pan searing all of my fish, meat and poultry dishes.
The sauce is based on the beurre blanc technique, which uses a white wine that has been concentrated down and made into a luscious sauce by gradually adding pieces of cubed butter, creating the perfect emulsion.
Adding fresh herbs like dill or tarragon really makes the sauce memorable and balances the rich texture of the butter sauce. This pan-seared halibut with lemon dill sauce combines classic flavors for the sauce with the fish so you really can’t go wrong!
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What is a Buerre Blanc sauce?
If you’re looking to create a flavorful sauce and don’t have much time, a buerre blanc or buerre rouge sauce is the way to go. These are emulsified butter-based sauces (beurre) that either uses white (blanc) or red (rouge) wine as one of the base ingredients. The three main ingredients for a butter sauce are shallots, white or red wine, and lots of butter. The texture is smooth and slightly thicker than heavy cream. The most important thing to remember when making this sauce is not to overheat! Once the sauce hits 136°F, proteins in the butter that help emulsify the sauce begins to break down and release the butterfat that is being suspended in the emulsion. Simply put, your sauce separates and you have a broken sauce on your plate.
Pan Seared Halibut with Lemon Dill Sauce
Pan Seared Halibut
- 16 ounces halibut fillets, two 8-oz pieces, about 2-inch thick
- kosher salt, to season fillets
- black pepper, to season fillets
- grapeseed oil, enough for cooking the halibut
Lemon Dill Sauce
- 1 cup dry white wine, chardonnay recommended
- ⅓ cup shallots, minced
- ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, chilled
- 3 tablespoons dill, chopped fresh
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 3 teaspoons lemon juice
- kosher salt, to taste
Lemon Dill Sauce
- In a small saucepan, heat wine and shallots over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 12-15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Gradually add each cube of butter into the reduction, whisking each piece to create a thicker emulsified sauce.
- Add the chopped dill, lemon zest, and lemon juice into the sauce, whisking to combine. Taste and season with salt as needed. Set aside.
- Remove the fish from the refrigerator and let stand for 15 minutes. Dry the surface very well in between two paper towels.
- Right before cooking, season each side of the halibut fillets generously with salt and pepper.
- Preheat a large stainless steel pan over high heat. Add enough grapeseed oil until it reaches about ⅛-inch of the side of the pan. Heat until oil starts to shimmer.
- Carefully add each halibut fillet to the pan presentation-side down, press the flesh with a spatula to create direct contact with the oil to create a golden crust.
- Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 4-5 minutes. When the bottom of the fish is golden brown, carefully flip to the other side.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and heat until cooked through, making sure not to overcook the fillets, about 2-4 minutes.
- Transfer to plate with a paper towel to remove any excess cooking oil.
- Gently reheat the lemon dill sauce, whisking to combine making sure not to overheat as this will cause the sauce to separate. Serve each fillet with a ¼ cup of sauce.