Halibut Olympia, Halibut Caddy Ganty

A mayonnaise cure is essentially a marinade.  Seafood or other foods are coated with a mixture of mayonnaise and other seasonings, and then baked or grilled.  Mayonnaise is basically oil emulsified with raw egg yolk, a powerful binding agent.  This emulsified fat mixture transforms during cooking into a sort of glaze, and it helps to keep moisture in the fish as it cooks.  Used as a thin coating, it is almost invisible on the finished product, or used thickly, becomes a kind of sauce.

A simple mayonnaise cure involves mixing mayonnaise with fresh herbs, crushed garlic, dijon mustard, and/or lemon juice and zest.  All those things together actually works out quite well.

Simple Mayonnaise Cure

  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1 Tb dijon
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tb chopped fresh herbs
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste

This makes enough for 4 8-oz. fillets.  Rub the mixture onto deboned fillets and bake or grill.

Depending on the type of cuisine you are cooking, you can easily whip up a compatible mayonnaise cure.  For Asian cuisines, a mixture of 2 parts mayonnaise with 1 part soy sauce is  a real winner.  Or like this:

Oyster Sauce Mayonnaise Cure

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 3 Tb. oyster sauce
  • 1 Tb. Chinese black bean garlic sauce

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A decent southwestern chipotle marinade:

Chipotle Mayonnaise Cure

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 Tb canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced, plus some of the sauce, to taste
  • 2 green onions, sliced and then minced

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The mayonnaise cure is the basis for a family of rather rich baked fish recipes involving bread crumbs and/or parmesan cheese in or on top of a mayonnaise coating.  Sometimes mayonnaise is mixed 50/50 with sour cream, sometimes it is mixed with parmesan and/or sliced green onions.  Often this mixture is layered thickly on fish fillets, and then topped with bread crumbs before baking.  The queen of such recipes is Halibut Olympia, of which many versions exist, but here’s a good basic one.

Halibut Olympia

  • 4 8-oz. halibut fillets
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 4-6 slices bacon, cooked crisp, crumbled, optional
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, shredded, not powdered
  • 1/2 c. plain breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cut halibut into entree size portions – approximately 3×4 inches.  Place halibut filets in single layer in buttered baking pan.  Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, green onions, bacon, garlic powder, salt, pepper, basil and thyme.  Cover halibut with sauce and top with bread crumbs.  Bake at 400°F for 18 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with Parmesan and return to oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. It should be white and moist.  Serve hot with rice pilaf and a green vegetable.

Some Halibut Olympia recipes are much simpler than this.  An older Alaskan recipe, which appears to predate Halibut Olympia, comes from Pelican, a small fishing community near Juneau.  This is Halibut Caddy Ganty, named after its creator, Caddy Ganty.  This recipe is unique in that it calls for first marinating the halibut in white wine, before rolling in bread crumbs, and then topping with the mayonnaise mixture.

Halibut Caddy Ganty

  • 2 lb. Halibut, fresh or defrosted
  • white wine to cover
  • sourdough bread crumbs
  • 2 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 c. finely chopped onions
  • Paprika

Take two pounds of filleted halibut cut into pieces approximately 1″ thick and 3″ x 3″, and put into a bowl, lightly salting and pouring wine over each layer until the fish is all in. Cover the fillets, and set in a cool place to marinate for two hours.

Drain the fillets and pat dry with paper towel or cloth, then roll in dry bread crumbs. Place the crumbed fillets in a single layer in a lightly buttered baking dish which can be brought to the table, and cover with the following topping:

Mix sour cream, mayonnaise and chopped onions and spread thickly on top of the fillets in the baking dish, smoothing it out to the edges so the fish is covered completely. Sprinkle the top with paprika and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until light brown and bubbly and an instant reading thermometer reads 125 degrees in the thickest part. Serve at once.

I think the soaking in wine part comes from an effective practice for refreshing previously-frozen halibut (or other seafood).  Fish which is just past its prime of freshness naturally begins to acquire a fishy odor, and when the odor is still slight, it can be removed by washing the fish in a slight acid solution, such as with lemon juice and wine.  Fish which has been frozen has an additional problem, in that the fats may have started to degrade and become slightly rancid.  Also, both the fat and the flesh can become freezer-burned.  The best way to combat this is to skin the fish, and carefully cut away all the slighty brown parts, which are fat, and also any parts that have been exposed and which are freezer-burned….and then soak the fish for an hour or two in white wine, then wash with lemon.

Now, you should never accept fish from a fishmonger if it smells fishy, and never accept it if served to you in a restaurant.  But interestingly, fish that smells a bit fishy is perfectly safe to eat.  The initial fishy smell is caused by natural enzymes in the fish breaking down the flesh, not by bacterial decomposition.  Bacterial decomposition occurs later, and smells different, like rotting fish, hmm, what a coincidence.  Fish degrades much faster than the meat of land animals because the enzymes in fish flesh are designed to operate at very cold temperatures.  When the fish warms up even temporarily to above 40°F or so, the enzymes become super-active, and start denaturing proteins like mad.  That’s why fish should be cold held at as close to 32°F as possible, such as when packed in ice, and why it seems to spoil so quickly, even when refrigerated at 40°F.

- Derrick Snyder

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