Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby
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Grilled Halibut Steak with Fresh Tomato Sauce

from The Thrill of the Grill (William Morrow and Company, 1990)

Halibut is the largest member of the flounder family, sometimes weighing as much as seven hundred pounds. This means that, although it is a flat fish, its body is thick enough to cut steaks from, with the bone in. When grilling, I always prefer fish or meat with bones, since they hold together better, are tenderer, and retain more juice and flavor. The halibut's firm flesh and delicate flavor also make it particularly suitable for grilling.

I would be reluctant to serve this fish with a strong relish for fear it would be too overpowering. Here I serve it with a fresh raw tomato sauce that provides a subtle background for the main attraction, the high-quality, delicately flavored fish.

Serves 4

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 4 8-ounce halibut steaks
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

1. Put the diced tomato into a mixing bowl.

2. Add the basil, olive oil and vinegar, mix well and set aside.

3. Rub the fish with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill the fish over a medium-hot fire for 5 to 6 minutes per side, until the flesh is opaque all the way through.

4. Add the lemon juice and garlic to the tomato mixture and mix well. Spoon some sauce on a plate and place a fillet on top of the sauce.


Chris Schlesinger grew up in Virginia and, at age eighteen, dropped out of school to wash dishes. He soon graduated to fry cook, went on to receive his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America, and subsequently cooked in restaurants ranging from Hawaiian burger joints to New England's finest dining rooms. In 1985, he and partner Cary Wheaton opened the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in 1987, they opened Jake and Earl's Dixie Barbecue next door.

John Willoughby was born and raised in Iowa and graduated form Harvard University in 1970. He has worked as a community organizer, legal services advocate, health administrator and free-lance writer in the Boston area, and for three years worked part-time with Chris Schlesinger in the kitchen of the East Coast Grill. He has published articles about food in several national magazines and is the feature writer for Cook's Magazine.


   Published: 1999