20 March 2011

Hippo of the Sea Panko Crusted Halibut with Colcannon and Roasted Tomatoes

Panko Crusted Halibut with Colcannon
and Roasted Tomatoes
Today is the first day of Spring!!! In Ireland the ancient Celtic feast of Imbolc was celebrated as the first day of Spring back in February. Obviously the Celts did not live in Canada! At last the sun-filled days we have all been waiting for are finally here, and hopefully to stay!  The primary purpose of this Pagan festival was to celebrate Spring and the end of a long cold winter.  In ancient times a festive meal was eaten containing oat gruel, dumplings, apple cake, and colcannon. Today is officially our first day of Spring so it seemed only fitting that I would have this delicious Colcannon, complete with the earthy flavours of kale and the creamy addition of butter and cream paired with some panko and herb topped halibut and "memories of summer" roasted tomatoes.

As with all classic dishes there are as many different colcannon recipes as there are Irish households that make it. There are even many ways of spelling it like colcanon and kohl cannon. In my quirky head I feel obliged to call it "kale-connon" since this version is made with kale. Must be the Rachel Ray goddess in me! This particular recipe for this potato dish is adapted from our very own Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites noted on the Cooking Channel website. It is perfect as an everyday side dish, peasant lunch or breakfast with eggs or butter beans, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with festive green and white...or the first day of Spring!! FYI: Traditionally colcannon made with kale was served at Hallowe'en.

The Spring feast begins with a short prayer, or toast:

Blessed be the earth, and all who dwell upon it.
We give thanks for the season now departing from us,
For the blessings it has bestowed upon us,
And upon those with whom we share this world.

Blessed be the new season.
We pray that it will be a time filled with peace,
With abundance, with prosperity,
With wisdom,
With love.

Blessed be all who share this feast.
Let us now prepare for the time ahead
By opening our hearts, and our minds, and our spirits.
Blessed be.

From Shepherd's Pie with Ulster Champ, to Colcannon Soup with Irish Soda Bread we have been celebrating being Irish all week as well as the rebirth of Spring. We are not really Irish of course but it is fun to adopt a nation for more than just one day. Irish-Canadians are the fourth largest group in Canada with a population of four and half million or fourteen percent of the total population. The earliest recorded Irish presence in Canada was in 1537 when a group of fishermen from Cork sailed to the island of Newfoundland. I wonder what their impressions of "the rock" were, whether they arrived in winter, or were amazed by the Grand Banks teaming with cod? Irish immigration peaked of course during and after the Great Irish Famine, a great number settling in these Maritime provinces.

As mentioned previously for today's celebration I chose to prepare a halibut dish with a side of traditional  Colcannon made with kale and some roasted tomatoes on the side. Next to salmon I would have to say that halibut is my favourite fish with its sparkling white meat. It is a lean, mild tasting fish whose firm flesh holds together well when cooked. It was perfect baked in the oven topped with a light Panko crust. For those of you watching your calories this method is a favourite of mine. I sometimes add a little lemon zest, shake up the herb factor or use mayonnaise, yogurt or different flavoured mustards as the coating layer.

You've heard of tuna referred to as "Chicken of the Sea" well how's about "Hippo of the Sea” which comes from the halibut’s Latin family name Hippoglossus. “Holy flatfish” is the English derivation, with hali for holy and but for flat, hailing from the halibut’s legacy as a special fish served on holy days (or holidays) in medieval Ireland. If the first day of Spring is not a Holy day then what is!!!

 This meal came together very quickly, and could even be considered a 30 minute cookbook meal, but it is restaurant ready!! The only downfall is the amount of washing up afterwards!This recipes serves 4 so your friends and family can help you with the dishes! Sláinte!

**Panko Crusted Halibut with Colcannon and Roasted Tomatoes**

Olive oil (for the dish) or cooking spray
4 pieces (5 ounces each) skinless halibut fillet (each about 3/4-inch thick)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup plain yogurt, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard or grainy mustard


4 russet potatoes, cleaned, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves minced
2 leeks, cleaned and whites thinly sliced
2 bunches kale, stems removed and chopped
2/3 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

Roasted Tomatoes:

15 cherry tomatoes
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450F.

Toss the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil, thyme sprigs and pepper. Distribute tomatoes on a foiled oven tray and cook in the oven for approximately15 minutes until the tomatoes are beginning to collapse. At the dsame time start the colcannon.(see below).

Halfway through cooking the tomatoes lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pat the halibut dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Set the fish in the baking dish and brush the top liberally with yogurt, mayonnaise, or either mustards. I tend use grainy mustard which adds a lot of subtle flavours. Sprinkle the top of the halibut with the crumb mixture.

Bake the fish for 10 minutes. With a low oil content, halibut will dry out easily if overcooked therefore cook it for 10 minutes per 2.5 cm (1 inch) of thickness or until the flesh loses its glossy appearance and flakes easily when pressed with a fork.

Meanwhile prepare the colcannon. Place the potato chunks in a large pot and fill with water to cover. Bring the potatoes to a boil on medium-high heat and continue to boil until the potatoes are fork tender, 20-25 minutes. Cut the potatoes smaller for a faster cooking time.

Place 6 tablespoons of butter, cream and garlic in a small saucepan and bring up to a simmer on medium-low heat. Cover to keep hot.

In a large saute pan melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat and saute the leeks for about 1 minute. Add the kale to the leeks and continue to saute for an additional 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the water over the kale and leek mixture, stir and cover. Allow the mixture to cook until the kale has wilted and the liquid has cooked off, about 7 minutes.

Once the potatoes are fork tender, drain them and place them back into the pot. Begin mashing the potatoes, while adding the cream mixture a little at a time, until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. I like to whip my potatoes with a hand mixer. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the leeks and wilted kale into the potatoes, adjust the seasonings.

Serve the crusted halibut perched on top of the colcannon and top with roasted tomatoes.

Serves 4

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. What a healthy and tasty dish! Fabulous.



  2. What a way to celebate the arrival of Spring. A beautiful plate of food, Val! Although I find it very hard to visit regularly, you are still my favorite blogger!!

  3. Lovely fish Val. What did we do without panko?

  4. I haven't made halibut in recent memory! You've inspired me with this recipe. Looks delicious! Kale-connon? I like that!


  5. Nice dish that gives one the feel of dining out right at home. Love these crusts on fish.

  6. I love fish Vall! and what lovely look this with panko, nice recipe Val, gloria

  7. I'm laughing at "Hippo of the Sea." I was shocked the first time I saw a whole halibut--I had no idea how gigantic they were!

    But they're my favorite fish, hands down. This recipe looks amazing!

  8. That sounds absolutely to die for!

  9. Oooh I love the crumb crust on the fish Val and the roasted tomatoes with colcannon = YUM!

  10. Based on the title, I was worried you were going to be making manatee.

  11. I would definitely think the first day of spring were holy. If, you know, it weren't cold and raining today. But it would certainly feel more springlike if I were eating this delicious meal!

  12. I've just discovered your site. It's fabulous. This dish looks SO good: only recently found panko in the shops here and so I'm dying to try out your recipe. Happy Springtime!

  13. What a wonderful post, Val. I'll never again look at a piece of halibut and not smile. I always enjoy my visits here and appreciate the thought that goes into your posts. You've created a wonderful spot for your readers. So, happy first day of spring :-). The druids will be delighted to know we celebrate :-). Take care and have a good day. Blessings...Mary

  14. Let's hear it for pagan festivals! Bonfires and nekked dancing right? :-D

    I'm laughing at the hippo of the sea comment. I make halibut for the hubby a lot since it's substantial, but has a light taste (or so he says). I will have to make sure I throw that term in.

    Beginning of spring indeed! Thursday adn Friday - still winter and the temps were high and balmy. Saturday - getting colder with lots of wind. Sunday - Steady temps, sun and no wind. Monday - SNOW!!!!!! It may be spring on the calendar, but I'm not holding my breath for spring weather. The northeast doesn't really understand the concept of "spring".

  15. Halibut is a favorite of mine too. And, it sounds delicious with a side of kale-cannon!

  16. i have never seen a whole halibut, so now I am very curious. Very nice dish, Val. Happy first day of spring! (Though you would never guess it's spring by looking outside my window)

  17. I must admit that I also love using panko bread. This look really delicious Val.

  18. Nice crust on the fish Val and love the idea of a "kale-cannon"! I adore halibut but only ever order it out.

  19. I was never much of a fish fan, except for salmon and filet of sole. Halibut has become my newest and favorite fish. I love panko crumbs, so this recipe got my attention. The whole meal is lovely, Val. So are your photos...you're bonding with your new camera very well.

  20. Now this is making me drool! It certainly looks delicious!

  21. This looks incredible!! Oh how I miss halibut season on the West Coast!!

  22. This sounds awesome...so healthy and love the colcannon with kale! Amazing dish, Val =)

  23. My that looks so enticing. I love halibut and it was fun to read about the evolution of its name. We actually get quite a bit of our halibut from Canada - and its fresh! (And expensive) Grand idea doing the colcannon with kale.

  24. Finally Spring. I hope the weather is nice for you. We had snow yesterday. Beautiful dish. I could eat this fish every week. Hard to find fresh in Ottawa :)

  25. This must have been a tasty feast! Halibut is delicious, but it's not available to us very often.

    On first day of spring it snowed. :)

  26. Hah...I was wondering why it was called "hippo of the sea". Lovely dish, Val. I'd order it in a restaurant for sure.

  27. Lovely fish...it's not Spring in New York...it was snowuing today...LOL

  28. Kale-connon? I LOVE THAT! :) Great looking fish too. I recently got some halibut for the freezer, so I should be trying this out!

    Thanks for the Pagan shout-out too! Just so you know the festival of Imbolc is not Wiccan per se - but just Pagan - many of the Pagan religions celebrate this holiday. Whereas the Wiccan religion is fairly new, created in the 1900's. :)

  29. What an interesting topping/side (colcannon)! I love all of the Irish info that you included too! I can't resist any panko-crusted fish! Great jog, Val! Looks like something I can prepare and enjoy at home. Thanks for sharing at Fresh Clean and Pure Friday today!

  30. I thought I had left a comment here - read it ages ago - and love the tulips... cannot believe it is spring. Still snowing here daily - though this week it is to heat up... we will float away, if it does. I love salmon and halibut, but sea bass is my very favourite. Though panko crusted halibut would be soooooo delicious. I have never had the traditional Irish soup, but certainly have read about it everywhere this year and better get to trying it out. Wonderful meal. Wonderful Prayer. Wonderful post.


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