Sautéed Halibut with Lemon-Pesto Butter

RECIPE BY Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton, The Salmon Sisters

PHOTOS BY Brian Grobleski & Dawn Huemann

We used to spend the afternoons jigging for halibut from our mom’s skiff in Ikatan Bay, sometimes bringing home a forty- to hundred-pound fish that would feed our family for many meals. One reason we love halibut so much is that it’s incredibly versatile but also easy to cook. This recipe is a good example of how tasty it can be with a simple preparation—all you really need is halibut, butter, herbs, and a good pan. Paired with lemon or pesto pasta, this is one of our family’s favorite weekday dinners. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon for coating the pan 

1 tablespoon homemade or store-bought pesto 

1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil 

1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots 

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest 

6 (4-ounce) skinless halibut portions2 teaspoons flaky sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 


1. Combine the butter, pesto, basil, shallots, and lemon zest in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until the butter is melted and all is well blended. 

2. Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the halibut evenly on both sides with the salt and pepper. Coat the pan with butter. Once melted, add the halibut and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Test doneness by cutting into the center of a fillet with a knife. The fish should flake apart and appear opaque white, not translucent. Pour the lemon-pesto butter over the fish before serving. 

(c) 2020 by Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton. All rights reserved. Excerpted from The Salmon Sisters by permission of Sasquatch Books.

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