Hy-Vee Introduces Responsible Choice Alaskan Pacific Halibut

With sizes more than 8 feet in length and weights surpassing the 500 pound mark, you can see why the largest of all flatfish is referred to by Alaska fisherman as “Barn Doors” for their massive size. Hy-Vee is pleased to introduce the availability of this popular fish, Alaskan Pacific halibut, to its meat counter.

Pacific halibut is often considered America’s favorite white fish. You can find halibut on restaurant menus and in fresh seafood cases across the country for grilling at home during the summer. Alaskan Pacific halibut is a mild, delicate and sweet-tasting white fish. Uncooked, the meat should be almost translucent — not dull, yellowish or dry. When cooked, the snowy-white meat loses its glossy appearance and flakes at the touch of a fork. As an added bonus, its versatility in the kitchen is almost limitless. The thick, meaty flesh holds up well to a number of cooking methods and sauces, and it’s an ideal item to skewer for a summer BBQ.

Hy-Vee is pleased to label Alaskan Pacific halibut as a Responsible Choice seafood item this year. Today, the only legal fishing method for commercial Pacific halibut fishermen is longline gear, aimed at the typical market size for this year’s catch of 10 to 15 pound halibut, which is much smaller than the 500 pound giants these flatfish can sometimes become. The 2015 season got underway on March 14 and will run until November 7, or until the quota of 29,223,000 pounds is met.

This season, Hy-Vee got its first taste of fresh Pacific halibut the week of season open on March 16. This was possible as all of our fish from Alaska are flown via Fed-Ex® overnight from Alaska to the Des Moines International Airport. After going through our U.S. Department of Commerce Inspection process at Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI), Hy-Vee stores have the opportunity to receive fresh halibut that has been out of Alaskan waters for only 48 hours. That is quite a feat, especially in the Midwest.

In general, the Alaska Pacific halibut commercial fisheries, including Hy-Vee’s primary vendor Copper River Seafoods, are selective in the fish they catch because of the size of the hook needed to harvest such a large fish – using a large hook generally reduces bycatch of smaller fish. Fishermen use circle hooks to increase catch rates and to improve the survival of any undersized halibut caught and released during commercial fishing. To reduce bycatch of other ground fish, regulations prohibit commercial Pacific halibut fisheries in specific depths and areas off the West Coast. The United States and Canada coordinate management through a bilateral commission known as the International Pacific Halibut Commission. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and the North Pacific and Pacific Fishery Management Councils are responsible for allocating allowable catch among users in the U.S. fisheries through the NOAA FishWatch.

Responsible Choice LabelAlthough the Alaska Pacific halibut commercial fishery industry has changed substantially over the years, the science-based management of the fisheries has remained constant, sustaining this industry for nearly 100 years. This is another testament to the Alaskan fisheries being some the best managed sustainable fishery industries in the world. Because of its well-managed fisheries and practices, Hy-Vee is proud to label Alaskan Pacific halibut with our Responsible Choice logo of approval.

Grilling Hy-Vee Responsible Choice Seafood: Let the Grill Do the Work

Grilling is one of the best ways to prepare Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice fish and seafood in the summertime, but it also can be intimidating. Fish is so delicate that a few wrong steps can cause the fish to fall apart

Two of the top tips are to touch the fish no more than necessary – let the direct heat of the grill do the work for you – and to start with a clean surface lightly sprayed with Hy-Vee non-stick cooking spray.

Wild salmon, which is coming into our stores fresh from Alaska for the next couple of months, is great on the grill. So are halibut steaks, swordfish and tuna. Other fish can work well with some extra precaution, and I’ll get to that later.

Plank it:

A popular way to prepare wild salmon is to cook it on cedar planks, which adds nice smokiness and a cedar flavor to the fish. To plank salmon, just soak the plank in water overnight.

Or, if you want to infuse some other flavors, try soaking the planks in smoked porter beer or an oaked chardonnay.

Pouch it:

If you don’t want to take a chance of the fish sticking, cook it en papillote, which literally means cooking “in paper.” If you’re using parchment paper, as the French recommend, use medium-high indirect heat. Add a little white wine, some fresh herbs and vegetables or citrus fruits, like lemon, orange or grapefruit, and you’ve got a meal in a bag.

A foil pouch also works. Just make sure you poke a few holes in the foil to allow the smoke flavor to infuse.

Marinate it in alcohol:

An alcohol marinade can release a new flavor sensation, but be sure not to overdo it. Alcohol is great for tenderizing meat, so don’t overdo it – 30 minutes tops, just long enough to infuse the flavor. If the fish is in the marinade too long, especially if it’s an acidic marinade, the proteins can begin to coagulate and the cooking process can begin.

Some combinations to think about include tequila-lime scallops, bourbon and brown sugar-glazed wild salmon, whiskey and brown sugar-glazed wild salmon, and vodka and wild salmon.

Skin on or off:

This is a matter of preference. If you’re going to remove the skin, start with the presentation side down on the grill, and flip it only one time, after about 4 minutes.

If you’re going to leave the skin on, that’s the presentation side and there’s no need to flip it. Just make sure the skin is crispy and not mushy.

Again, you don’t want to mess with it too much. It will release itself from the grill when it is cooked. Moving it around on the grill tears up the flesh.

Other fish:

Catfish, tilapia and some of the more delicate white fishes generally don’t hold up well during grilling, but you can still enjoy them. Hy-Vee sells stainless steel fish baskets that will hold them together.

Whole rainbow trout also works well. Score the skin on both sides and slip citrus and herbs under the skin to add more flavor. Some of the herbs that work well include thyme, tarragon, fennel, dill, rosemary and oregano.

Don’t ever do this:

One thing you never want to do is re-cook shrimp. You can reheat it briefly – 30 seconds tops –  but any more than that will make it a rubbery mess.

A good way to grill raw, deveined shrimp is to skewer, add some lemon and pepper and grill a couple of minutes on each side. Be sure you use some of the larger shrimp available in our seafood cases. Shrimp is not a Responsible Choice at Hy-Vee yet, but we’re working on it and will have shrimp that meets our environmental standards by the end of 2015.

Don’t overcook it:

One of the common mistakes in grilling fish is to overcook it. Here’s a guide:

Fillets (tilapia and catfish): 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness, medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes

Firm steaks (halibut, wild salmon, tuna, swordfish): 1-inch thickness, medium to medium-high heat, 10 minutes

Lobster tails: 8- to 10-ounce, medium heat, 8 to 10 minutes

Raw shrimp (not a Responsible Choice): 21- to 25-count per pound, medium heat, 4 to 5 minutes; under 10-count per pound, 6 to 8 minutes, medium heat

Farmed scallops, clams, mussels: under 12 per pound, medium heat, 4 to 5 minutes

Recipe Spotlight: Salmon and Halibut Make Holiday Meals Extra Special

Ham and lamb often get the nod when people are thinking about what to put on the Easter holiday table, but Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice salmon and halibut offer some serious competition. Either will stand up well as a main dish.

I’ve selected two recipes that offer a unique presentation and will look beautiful on your holiday table and will leave your guests raving about the meal. Guests will remember these two dishes, whereas the ham they had last year may not be all that memorable.

They’re a nice choice going into spring when people want to get away from some of the heavier foods of winter. They’re both flavorful, but light.

Both dishes also present well. Shingle the fish on a nice white platter and garnish with colorful citrus and you’ll have a presentation that will be very aesthetically pleasing to your guests.


Poached Salmon with Pineapple Cucumber Raita

All you need:

Salmon

  • 1 1/2 quarts vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 9 sprigs parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 pounds center-cut salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces

Pineapple Cucumber Raita

  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and grated
  • 3/4 cup small diced fresh pineapple
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste

All you do:

  1. In a large deep poaching pan, combine the vegetable stock, wine, vinegar, onion, carrot, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves and 2 1/4 teaspoons  salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the cucumber, pineapple, yogurt, garlic, mint and cilantro; season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Add the salmon to the liquid in the pan and bring back to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, until the fish is just barely done (it should still be translucent in the center), about 4 minutes for a 1-inch-thick fillet. Remove the pan from the heat and let the fish sit in the liquid for 2 minutes. Transfer to plates and, if you like, remove the skin. Serve the salmon warm, topped with the raita.

Halibut with Chimichurri

All you need:

Chimichurri

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Halibut

  • 4 halibut steaks
  • olive oil for brushing
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

All you do:

  1. In a food processor, place garlic, cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano and red pepper flakes; pulse until herbs are coarsely ground. Add lemon zest and red wine vinegar; slowly drizzle in olive oil to create an emulsion. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Heat an outdoor gas grill, or prepare coals for a charcoal grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Brush the cooking grates clean and oil the grill rack. Brush steaks with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill halibut over direct heat 10 minutes, turning once, or until just opaque but still moist in the center.
  3. Spoon chimichurri over grilled halibut and serve with steamed rice or quinoa.

Cheers! Choose the Right Wine and Beer to Complement Hy-Vee Responsible Choice Seafood

Whether wine or beer, the beverage paired with Hy-Vee Responsible Choice seafood is as important to its taste as the spices and sauces used in the preparation of the fish.

Sue Navratil here:
One of my favorite seafood choices is Pacific halibut. It’s easy to prepare and has a delicate, almost sweet taste. There are many wines that go well with halibut and other white fish, but one of the best is an unoaked chardonnay.

These wines have brighter fruit, they’re not heavy and laden with oak and butter, and their fruit shines through for a clean, crisp taste.

Some other good choices:

  • Dry roses have nice acidity and a bit of fruit that will complement that bit of sweetness and delicate taste of the halibut.
  • Dry chenin blanc. When dry chenins are their best, they will have a bit of sweetness of the grape. The wine is still dry, so it leaves the palate nice and clean.
  • Beaujolais. This wine from the Beaujolais region of France has a very light body and is dry and fruity. It has more body than a dry rose and has nice fruit, but not a lot of sugar to get in the way of the flavors of the fish. It’s also a bit more delicate, so it’s nice to pair with delicate fish.

The old adage that only white wine is paired with fish isn’t necessarily true. Many white wines do accompany fish well, but so will red wines with nice acidity, a light to medium body and low tannins.

With Responsible Source-labeled salmon, tuna and some of the meatier fishes, you can get into some red wines for sure. Pinot Noir has wonderful fruit and strong acidity that make it pair well with food in general, but with fish especially well because it doesn’t have all those heavy tannins.

Chardonnays with some nice butter and oak work especially well with salmon because it’s a fairly fatty fish. When you pair them, those buttery textures in the chardonnay and the fat in the salmon are a nice complement.

Go with a California pinot noir for tuna, a dense, meaty fish. Even if it’s only seared and is still a bit rare in the center, it has a meaty texture so it can handle the heavier body and riper fruit in these wines.

Rieslings, which have a drier, clean, crisp and almost citrusy taste, are good to pair with fish prepared with wasabi or spicy Thai seasonings. A taste of sweet, cool Riesling soothes and helps correct that crazy taste sensation you get with wasabi.

Champagne is also great with any fish that’s prepared tartare.

About the Author
I’m Sue Navratil, and I am a certified specialist of wine (CWS), which I earned by passing a rigorous exam through the Society of Wine Educators. There are only seven of us in the Hy-Vee system.

I work in the North Ankeny Boulevard Hy-Vee store. I love my job. Besides getting to work every day with wine, which is my passion, I help customers learn about wine and choose wine for their events, and facilitate their events by pouring wine.

I do a monthly wine club at the store and other occasional special wine events. I also write my own personal wine blog, naviwine.blogspot.com, which features wines that are available in my store.


Brian here:
The idea of pairing is for the dish and the beer to complement each other and make a new experience. Both can be great experiences on their own, but when you pair well, you end up with a truly exceptional dining experience.

The same principles used in wine pairing apply when choosing a beer to serve with fish. The important thing is to find something complementary that will not overpower the delicate nature of the seafood.

A lot of fish is very light, with a bright flavor and often made citrusy with lemon condiments and sauces.

With lighter white fishes, I like to serve crisp wheats. Two good ones are Boulevard Wheat or Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat. Both of these American wheats are crisp and citrusy, so they lend themselves well to seafood. And they will cut through the butter, if you’re topping it with a creamy sauce, and bring out the brightness of the fish.

Pale ales, such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Mirror Pond from Deschutes Brewery, are also good for delicate white fish, like Pacific halibut.

I wouldn’t move too much out of the American wheats or American pale ales. They all have that citrusy note that lends itself well to any of the seafood. If you waiver too much, the beer will be overpowering and wash out the flavor of the fish.

As you move on to heartier fish, you want to step up the depth of beer. Shellfish can handle something maltier, like an IPA. Try to match the strength of the beer with the dish. The main thing is to make sure they work together.

For more traditional pairings, porters (like Central Waters Muddy Puppy Porter) and stouts (old-world Guinness is a good one) have a rich caramel quality that accentuates the creamy aspect of the seafood. Oysters and stouts go great together.

Responsible Choice Seafood from Alaska, a World Model for Sustainability, Sells Itself

All of our Responsible Choice products meet high standards and Hy-Vee’s commitment to bring customers the freshest, best-quality fish and seafood available today, but seafood from Alaska is in a league of its own.

Throw the name “Alaska” in front of a species of fish and it sells itself and stands for a high quality that is unmatched. Customers feel confident purchasing fish they know is from Alaska, whether it’s Alaskan king crab, salmon, Pacific halibut or black cod.

Customers know where it comes from – some of the cleanest, purest waters anywhere – and they know it’s not only safe to eat, but has superior flavor and texture as well. The flavor is a result of the fish feeding on a natural diet of marine organisms and the texture comes from their annual migrations in the cold waters of the North Pacific.

Alaska’s seafood industry, the state’s largest private-sector employer, is a world model of seafood sustainability and fisheries management – and has been for 50 years. Continuing that livelihood – and a healthy supply of fish and healthy oceans for generations to come – is so important that the Alaska Constitution mandates that fish are “utilized, developed and maintained on the sustained yield principle.”

The quota system is well managed and the fisheries live and die by it. Once their quota is met, they’re done. As a result of these practices, no species of Alaska seafood has ever been red-listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The Pacific halibut and black cod (sablefish) harvest season just opened, and limits have been set at 16.8 million pounds before the season ends in November. Alaska has more than 95 percent of the Pacific halibut and catches are closely monitored. In the last few years, they’ve cut back on the amount of halibut to ensure the availability of this favorite – the largest of the flatfish, known for its mild flavor and firm texture.

Salmon is one of the most popular seafoods in the world. People live for it. King salmon is in season year-round, but the seasons for sockeye, coho, keta and pink salmon generally run May-September. The fisheries take great care to manage the populations during spawning season, allowing significant numbers to escape so they can make it up river to spawn.

As a result of these time-tested management practices, the fisheries have been able to make abundant salmon harvests for more than three decades.

When Hy-Vee launched its Responsible Choice initiative – our pledge that by the end of 2015, all of our high-quality fresh and Hy-Vee brand frozen seafood will be responsibly caught – it was no big deal for the three vendors we work with in Alaska.

Alaska knows they are doing it right. They get it.

Hy-Vee’s Seafood Cases are Brimming with Responsible Choice Options from Around the World

Seafood Case

The seafood cases at Hy-Vee stores are brimming with sustainable seafood options, branded Responsible Choice to demonstrate our commitment to healthy choices for your family, the environment, and the world’s oceans and the various species they support.

One of the best choices is Idaho rainbow trout from Clear Springs Foods. They are definitely the leaders in the industry for Responsible Choice trout, and Clear Springs is the only trout supplier we’re featuring now. We had some others that weren’t as environmentally friendly, so this is a big change that comes with Hy-Vee’s commitment to responsibly source all of its fresh and store brand frozen seafood by the end of 2015.

Clear Springs Foods made the grade because the fish are farm-raised in a closed system of concrete raceways fed by pristine natural spring waters. The same company provides ready-to-bake options, such as Parmesan-crusted Idaho rainbow trout.

Customers can also feel confident about Pacific cod, which is probably the most recognized fish in the world. People like this white fish because of its mild flavor and low fat content. Back in the day, sea merchants traded cod for supplies, and Atlantic stocks have collapsed as a result. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has rated some Atlantic cod fisheries as a Red ‘Avoid’ because of the long history of overfishing.

Pacific cod, on the other hand, has been very well managed, so the stocks are good. Our cod comes from Alaska, where limits have been imposed on what can be caught and how much can be caught.

Previously frozen, this Pacific cod coming out of Alaskan waters lives close to the sea floor and is caught in pots – not by bottom trawls – and bycatch is mostly eliminated. If other species are caught, they remain alive and they can be thrown back into the water. With longlines, which aren’t included in the sustainable practices we require at Hy-Vee, the fish can be dead when it’s pulled into the boat.

Halibut is another popular responsibly sourced Pacific fish. Its availability is limited, though, because limits were put in place because conservationists have noticed there haven’t been as many juveniles. We’ll see more fresh supplies in early March – great timing, as this is a good grilling fish.

A good starter fish for people who want to introduce more seafood into their diets is tilapia, which Hy-Vee brings in fresh from Ecuador. It’s a clean, white fish that takes on the flavor of whatever you put with it. If you want a non-fishy-tasting fish, tilapia is the way to go. Tilapia are vegetarians, so farmers don’t have to use fish meal or other fish, making it very environmentally friendly. It’s also a good value fish.

Very close to tilapia in taste is swai or basa, a less common name for this river fish from Vietnam. It’s a type of catfish.

Another very popular Responsible Choice in the Midwest is channel catfish, a river fish that many of us grew up with and know well. Hy-Vee’s catfish is domestic and farm-raised in ponds, mostly in Mississippi. We offer it in three forms: as fillets (the most expensive option), whole fish (about $3 less per pound than fillets) and as catfish nuggets (the most affordable variety).

Also popular are ahi tuna and swordfish, which are pole caught in Indonesia without using other fish as bait. Each shipment comes with a letter certifying that it was caught using this sustainable practice. Both are great grilling-weather fish.

Our Responsible Choice initiative has changed what’s available in the seafood case, and in some cases introduced people to some new fish. Our customers are overwhelmingly supportive of this and think Hy-Vee is doing the right thing.