{recipe} Broiled Halibut with Chermoula (Plus a Few Tips About Cooking Fish in the Oven)

We’re experiencing record high temperatures here in the Bay Area, which makes me want to eat light, bright dinners like this broiled halibut with chermoula. Chermoula is a versatile North African condiment made with toasted spices, cilantro, and parsley, and it goes beautifully with fish.

broiled fish with chermoula

In Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, chermoula is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, but I have to somewhat shamefully admit that I don’t even own one. I adapted a more traditional Moroccan-style recipe and made mine in the food processor. It’s important to toast the spices, because that step really impacts the flavor.

You will most likely have leftover chermoula after making this dish – and as you add spoonfuls of it to couscous and rice, spread it on toast and sandwiches, or try it in any number of other ways- you may start to wonder how you lived without a jar of it on hand all this time.

chermoula

A lot of people are afraid of cooking fish at home, which is totally understandable because it can seem a bit daunting to get it just right. Broiling is a great way to start, because it doesn’t tend to smell up the kitchen like pan frying or sauteing can, and it can be a bit more forgiving in terms of getting the perfect doneness. Here are some helpful tips and ideas for cooking fish in the oven:

  • When you’re broiling a tender white fish like halibut, a good rule of thumb is to cook it about 2-3 minutes per 1/4 inch thickness of fish. For example, if the fish is an inch thick, it will most likely take between 8 and 10 minutes to cook.
  • To make cleanup easier, use a cookie sheet or sheet pan that’s covered in aluminum foil and brushed with olive oil. The oil will help prevent the fish from sticking and the foil will mean you don’t have to clean the pan.
  • If you want a virtually fool-proof way to cook salmon, I recommend this simple technique from the Pioneer Woman – it has never failed me and can be successfully made by even the most novice cook!
  • If you’re not sure how to choose fish at the market, there are good tips here about all the things to look for to make sure you’re getting the freshest, tastiest fish.

One final piece of advice: it’s key that you use foil and not parchment paper for this. The broiler can ignite the parchment paper and cause a fire! Trust me on this one… I almost burned the house down. Rookie mistake.

Recipe: Broiled Halibut with Chermoula
serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp smoky paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (or more, to taste)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • about 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup packed parsley leaves (curly or Italian)
  • 4 halibut filets, approximately 6 oz. each
  • coarse salt
  • lemon wedges for serving

METHOD:

  • Put cumin seeds and coriander seeds in a dry pan over medium heat. Toast a few minutes until fragrant. Remove from pan and put in food processor.
  • Add garlic, salt, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil and process very well, scraping sides down often.
  • Add cilantro and parsley and blend very well, to make a paste. Add more oil if necessary to make paste (a pesto-like consistency is ideal.)
  • Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt or cayenne if desired.
  • Coat halibut filets liberally in chermoula and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  • Prepare a pan with foil and brush olive oil on it. Move oven rack to the top (about 2-3 inches from the flame) and turn broiler to high. Arrange the filets on the foil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Cook about 5 minutes, until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. (A good rule of thumb is to cook halibut 2-3 minutes per 1/4 inch of thickness.)
  • When the fish is cooked through, remove from oven and immediately spoon 1-2 Tblsp of remaining chermoula over each filet and spread it in a thin layer over the top. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
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