The word heirloom is used to describe something passed down from generation to generation as an inseparable part of inheritance. Many times, it’s the memories attached to heirlooms that make them so invaluable. This recipe is no different. It’s been in the Schara family for 20 years, and every time we make this magical dish, it brings us right back to halibut fishing off the coast of Prince of Wales Island in Alaska.
My first trip to Alaska had me in awe of all the natural wonder, from humpback whales breaching out of the water to bald eagles swooping down to the dock to pick up fish scraps — so close you could feel the breeze coming off their wings. It’s as if nature and humankind exist as one in that vast wilderness.
The halibut fishing had no lack of amazement either. I remember my family catching 25- to 30-pound fish and needing some additional muscle strength to reel them in. They say that reeling in a halibut feels like you’re pulling a barn door up from the ocean floor.
When it came my turn, I seemed to struggle more than the rest. My family and the fishing guides all started giving me some heat thinking I was wimping out. That continued until the halibut at the end of my line reached the surface. The moment the captain exclaimed, “Oh wow,” I knew I wasn’t lifting a barn door — I was reeling in the entire barn. My first halibut was taller than my 5-foot-6-inch frame and weighed in at 77 pounds. A barn indeed!
That evening, we enjoyed our freshly caught fish. The chef at the resort delighted us with this recipe that would live on for years to come. I took it with me to college, making it for my roommates and delighting in their smiles. Years later, I entered a halibut cook-off with some close friends, and we laughed, bonded and enjoyed wonderful bites. This recipe was crowned the winner, but it isn’t the blue ribbon or the bragging rights that mattered.
What matters is the time spent fishing with family or cooking for friends, creating the most meaningful thing that we all crave: connection. It’s this priceless connection that permanently bonds us through joy, laughter and memories. My wish is that this heirloom, which has given me wildly delicious and meaningful moments throughout life, does the same for you.
Schara Family Heirloom Dijon Halibut
Makes 6 servings
white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
juice from 1 lemon
4 to 6 halibut filets, skin removed
¼ cup Dijon mustard
½ cup mayonnaise
2 cups sourdough bread, dried and cubed
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan, or more to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1. Pour wine and lemon juice into a glass baking dish to cover bottom of dish.
2. Place halibut in baking dish. Sprinkle with pepper.
3. Combine mustard and mayonnaise. Spread on top of halibut in a thin layer.
4. In a blender or food processor, pulse bread, Parmesan, parsley and oil to create fine crumbs.
5. Pack mixture on top of halibut in a ¼-inch-thick layer. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness of filets, until crust is golden brown. Serve hot from the oven with your favorite side dishes.