Halibut Tacos with tequila-lime marinade and red cabbage slaw

| Category: Food & Wine



I present to you the godfather of fish tacos that I wait all winter for, pining longingly for the spring season when the first wild Alaska halibut comes to market. It’s typically early March when halibut hits Pacific Northwest markets, vying for attention along with rhubarb and asparagus. If you have a bit more time, make some home-made, not Pacific Northwest, guacamole. It is painfully simple: smash 2 ripe avocados with a fork, and add 11⁄2 tablespoons lime juice, 3⁄4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon hot sauce of your choice— mine is Tabasco.


For the red cabbage slaw:

3⁄4 pound red cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and grated

1⁄2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

1⁄2 bunch cilantro leaves and stems, roughly chopped (about 3⁄4 cup)

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


For the tequila-lime marinade:

Zest and juice of 1 lime (about 1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)

2 tablespoons tequila*

1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 large serrano chiles, halved, seeds and membranes removed, sliced crosswise into half rings

1  small red onion, sliced into thin half-moons (about 2⁄3 cup)

2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


For the halibut:

1 pound halibut fillet, skinned,‡ bones removed

1 tablespoon high-heat vegetable oil


For the taco bar:

Corn or flour tortillas, warmed Sour cream
Guacamole (optional)
Lime wedges

Beers, of course


*Get good-quality tequila so you can sip it while you cook—my favorite is Cazadores Reposado, a great clean flavor for the price.

‡ Go to GoodfishBook.com for a demonstration of how to remove the skin from a fillet.

PAIRING: first choice is Red Stripe Jamaican lager; second, tequila.



To prepare the slaw, toss the cabbage with the salt. Place in a colander. Locate a bowl that will t nicely into the colander, fill it with water, and set it on top of the cabbage. Set this in the sink. e weight of the bowl of water will help force water from the cabbage, concentrating its flavor.

Lightly press the grated apple to drain any liquid. In a large bowl, mix the apple with the mustard seeds, cilantro, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil. Give the cabbage a squeeze with those fancy kitchen tools of yours called “hands.” Rinse the salt o the cabbage and squeeze again, getting all the liquid out. Combine the cabbage with the rest of the slaw ingredients and season to taste with salt. Set aside.

To prepare the marinade, in a small bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients.

To prepare the halibut, place it in a large pan. Pour the marinade over the fillet and set aside for 20 minutes.

In a grill pan or sauté pan over high heat, add the vegetable oil. Add the halibut, reserving the marinade, and cook until the fish is browned on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the halibut carefully and continue cooking until the fish is thinking about flaking, but not quite yet flaking, and the internal temperature

reaches 125 to 130°F. The fish will continue to cook a bit more after you remove it from the heat. Transfer the fish to a platter. Add the marinade to the pan (or get out a fresh pan if you grilled the fish) and cook over high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the liquid evaporates and the serranos and onions are lightly charred. Spread the marinade on top of the halibut, which, by this point, should be perfectly done.

Set up the best taco bar you’ve ever seen, with warmed tortillas; bowls of sour cream, guacamole, and red cabbage slaw; the platter of halibut (which you can flake up with a fork so people can easily portion into their tortillas) with charred serranos and onions; limes; shot glasses filled with good tequila; and beer, lots of beer.


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  1. This looks delicious. Halibut tacos are my favorite.

    Posted by Jeanette Bailor