Pan-Roasted Halibut Cheeks with Citrus Olive Oil–Poached Prawns and Saffron Aioli

Halibut cheeks are closer in texture to chicken than to halibut fillets. Because such a meaty piece of fish can handle it, we bring a lot of acidity and a nice fatty aioli to this substantial dish. Serve it with asparagus or crisp green beans.

By Chef David Robertson, The Dirty Apron

Tuna Poke

Serves 4


Saffron aioli

  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp hot water
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp tomato paste

Citrus olive oil poached prawns

  • 2 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • juice and zest of 1 lime
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 16/20 prawns, shelled and deveined
  • fleur de sel
  • black pepper

Pan-roasted halibut cheeks

  • 4 portions halibut
  • cheeks, each 3 oz
  • 1 Tbsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/3 c white wine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 c unsalted butter,cut into cubes
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley


Saffron aioli

Put the saffron threads in a small cup, add the hot water and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Place the saffron and water and the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Citrus olive oil–poached prawns

Combine the olive oil, juice and zest from the lemon, lime and orange, and the garlic in a large saucepan. Heat the mixture slowly over medium heat to 135°F. (Use a deep-fat thermometer to measure the temperature.) Season the prawns with fleur de sel and black pepper, add them to the citrus olive oil and poach until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes or until the prawns turn pink. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the prawns to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Discard the poaching liquid.

Pan-roasted halibut cheeks

Preheat the oven to 180°F. Season the halibut cheeks on both sides with the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, salt and white pepper. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Dredge the halibut cheeks in the flour—shaking off any excess—and set aside on a large plate. Place a sauté pan on high heat and lightly coat it with the vegetable oil. Add the halibut cheeks and cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn the halibut cheeks over and cook for another 2 minutes, until golden. Transfer the halibut cheeks to a large plate and place in the oven to keep warm. Place a second sauté pan over medium heat, then add the white wine and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the butter, a few cubes at a time, until emulsified. Add the parsley.

To assemble

Arrange a spoonful of aioli in the middle of each plate. Cover with halibut cheeks and lean the prawns against them. Spoon some of the lemon butter sauce over the fish. Serve immediately.

Chef's Note: For best results, be careful not to overheat the olive oil.
To avoid overcooking the halibut cheeks, remember that they will cook quite quickly.

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