"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Halibut Lunch Fit for a King
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Scifres

I am not one to badmouth walleyes as table fare, but a kitchen caper today prompts me to say I would trade a dump truck load of the marble-eyed species for a three-pound halibut steak.

Smacks of sacrilege, doesn't it? But before we debate that issue, let me tell you how this halibut kitchen caper unfolded.

In a recent telephone conversation with Dan Gapen, owner of Gapen Fishing Tackle Company, and my fishing/hunting friend of many years . . . many trips . . . (here in Indiana and elsewhere, including the far north), Dan mentioned the fact that he had just returned to his Becker, MN, home from a goose-hunting trip in Canada.

If you have read my columns and features in the distant past, you will know Dan as the inventor of such outstanding fishing lures as The Hairy Worm and The Ugly Bug. His manufacturing business still thrives and he now has added many other great lures to his stable (his catalogue is available by writing The Gapen Company, 17910 87th Street, Becker, MN 55308).

Dan told me his trip was not real great for honkers (Canada geese), but that he had done well on blues and snows.

"We don't get many blues and snows here in Indiana," I told Dan, adding that I am in the midst of putting together a wild game/fish/natural foods cook book, and that I would like (hint-hint) to bake a blue and/or snow. It would make it easier for me to write about them.
My last word had barely crackled across the phone wires to Dan's Becker (Minnesota) home when he said: "I have them frozen . . . Monday morning I will overnight you a blue and a snow (ready for the pan) . . . They will be delivered Tuesday . . . still frozen." 

That they were--along with this sizeable (at least four pounds) chunk of what Dan's label said was halibut.

To shorten an otherwise long story, I have not yet baked the geese Dan sent. I will wait until he tells me how he cooks them (I learned long ago that it is never safe to assume anything about Dan's methods in hunting/fishing/cooking). When I get the word on his methods I will share them, along with my own methods.

But today a rumbling tummy told me I was coming up on lunchtime. I had thawed a piece of the halibut that was more than two inches thick, three inches wide and eight inches long.

I had a few finger-size pieces of scrap left over when I sliced the chunk into four long strips more than half an inch thick and two inches wide.

In a shallow iron skillet I fried two strips of bacon in four or five tablespoons of olive oil. When the bacon showed signs of crispness, I moved it to a paper towel to drain, cool and get crisp, and added half a cup of chopped onion and almost a cup of dried hen-of-the-woods (mushroom) fronds to the mixture of bacon fryings and olive oil in the skillet. They, of course, were sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper, along with a few tablespoons of red wine.

When the onion showed signs of tenderness, I removed what would be my garnish from the skillet, and dipped the fish filets in a mixture of egg and milk (50-50), and rolled them in a mixture of finely rolled Keebler Club crackers (green box with yellow lettering) and flour (also 50-50).

The fish filets had been liberally salted and peppered before being dipped in the egg-milk mixture and rolled in the cracker meal-flour mix.

Before the sizzle of the skillet could cool from sautéing the onion/mushroom mix, the filets were lined up in the bottom, and each filet and sliver was watched constantly until browned on both sides, but not overcooked.

While the leftover egg-milk mixture was scrambling in the skillet (along with some cracker crumbs) I waved my magic wand and a fresh salad of Romaine popped out of the frig with cheddar strips, bacon chips and a fine dressing.

It was a lunch fit for a king.

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