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Mar 20, 2013 01:47 PM

Less expensive substitute for halibut?

I'm having 17 people over for a Passover seder on Monday! In addition to the traditional matzo ball soup, brisket, etc, I'd like to round out the menu with a lighter entree. I found a promising recipe for a Lemon and Herb-Crusted Halibut (which plays nicely on the "bitter herbs" theme from the seder plate). But halibut is awfully darn pricey, especially in these quantities. Can anyone suggest a substitute that would be firm enough to hold up well when crusted and pan fried? Thanks!

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  1. Maybe Mahi Mahi? It's not super cheap, but certainly cheaper than halibut.

    17 Replies
    1. re: juliejulez

      Mahi-Mahi is similar in thickness of filets/steaks only. Both flavor & texture are way different from Halibut.

      1. re: Bacardi1

        Yes but it would be good with a lemon and herb crust.

        1. re: juliejulez

          Actually, so would pretty much every/any fish - lol!!!

          1. re: Bacardi1

            True, Bacardi :) This recipe calls for pan-frying in a little bit of vegetable oil, and I want to make sure the fish is sturdy enough that it won't mush or flake apart.

            Thanks for the suggestions! I'll look at cod and mahi-mahi prices...

            1. re: kristen3

              I think mahi mahi would work much better than cod.
              If it were me, I would do the halibut but in small quantities. it is very rich and you don't need that much.

              1. re: magiesmom

                with all that seder food you could serve a 3 oz. portion of halibut. if using a more delicate fish, no reason it can't be baked with this prep.

                you may also be able to get pollock at a decent price.

                it's lent and winter, so low supply, high demand = spendy fish.

                1. re: magiesmom

                  That's a good point. I don't need 17 servings for 17 guests, since there is a LOT of other food

                2. re: kristen3

                  Can you find monkfish? Its firmness is similar to halibut's and the pieces are fairly thick. Monkfish tail is what you are buying - this ugly fish is basically a huge head attacked to a long, fleshy tail.

                    1. re: MGZ

                      Although it would be a good alternative, monkfish is absolutely nothing like halibut in any way,except it's white when cooked.

                      1. re: hankstramm

                        I agree. Monkfish flesh is much more fibrous than halibut (or cod for that matter). It used to be called "poor man's lobster" because its texture was so similar - not something you can say for either halibut or cod.

                        In addition, if you buy Monkfish, do realize that unless the market has done it for you (a rare few do, many don't), you'll have to slice/peel off the silverskin, which is a real pain in the a**.

                        1. re: Bacardi1

                          I think monk and halibut share three qualities: They are firm, take flavors/coatings well, and have similar tastes. I agree that there is a textural difference, which is what I suggested by pointing to the physiological differences.

                          Moreover, I've never known a monger that wouldn't remove the skin, but even when I got it from buddies who had it as by-catch, I've never found the removal to be difficult. You just need a good filet knife.

                          1. re: Bacardi1

                            i was going to say the same thing about peeling the silverskin off of monkfish! a PITA! maybe i am lacking in skill or a good filet knife. i do like monkfish when i've had it in restaurants.

                            1. re: alkapal

                              i was lazy -- i knew it wasn't a "silverskin" proper, like on ribs. bad on me! LOL. the membrane is -- in my opinion -- harder to deal with than silverskin, because with silverskin, you can often get a good "run" with the knife. when i've done monkfish, it seemed like a struggle for two square inches. again, may be my skill or a less than adequate filet knife.

                            2. re: Bacardi1

                              I have fished all of my life and have never come across a fish with silverskin. Beef, lamb, venison, pork, elk, etc. I have found silverskin but never on a fish I have seen.

                              I guess I learn something new here everyday.

                              1. re: Fowler

                                It's not really a "silverskin" its a gelatinous membrane substance. Think plastic wrap, but very thin and breakable.


                                1. re: MGZ

                                  Thanks for the confirmation MGZ. I seem to recall that Octopus has a similar membrane. Definitely not silverskin but more like what you described.

            2. Cod is my go-to sub for Halibut, & happens to be very reasonable in price - particularly this time of year.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bacardi1

                Ditto. I just had some cod from Costco that was quite nice. I got it from the fresh meat/fish cases (not sure if it was previously frozen, but it wasn't in the freezer cases), for $6.99/lb.

                1. Really depends on what part of the country you are in. If I was on the East Coast, Haddock would be great (funny thing is the only thing I'm allergic to is Haddock--nothing severe though, just hives for an hour or so).

                  If you are on the West Coast, we eat a lot of Rockfish (commonly called rock cod or red snapper). It's actually preferable to halibut, since it has a higher fat content, it doesn't dry out like halibut. You need to cook halibut perfectly, something difficult during a Seder.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: hankstramm

                    I live in the DC area. I love rockfish, but that's expensive out here too. I'll see what they have.

                    Magie's Mom, thanks for the reminder about quantity. With so much else on the menu (and brisket to choose from too), I could make a smaller amount and figure not everyone will take everything. But the worry about running out runs deep :)

                    1. re: kristen3

                      right now, harris teeter has tilapia on sale for $5 a pound. personally, i don't like tilapia, but there ya go! the america seafood company in arlington has a good selection of fish, but any decent wild-caught fish is going to be pricey.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Serving Tilapia just may ensure she would never be asked to host Passover Seder again and if that is is one of the goals, I say go with Tilapia! :-) :-)

                        1. re: Fowler

                          Ha, ha! I actually like tilapia, but if serving it gets one of my siblings to step up for next year, that would be a win-win...

                      2. re: kristen3

                        First, "Rockfish" refers to striped bass in the MD/VA/DE area. It is an Atlantic fish. The term is used for different fish on the West Coast.

                        Halibut is a very different fish than striper. The former is a large, flat fish. I would think that in your part of the East Coast, flounder would be the most reasonable priced flat fish substitute. Another option would be monkfish. Although a bit different from halibut in terms of its physiology, the tail meat has a very similar flavor, and it tend to be quite inexpensive.

                    2. Hi, there really is not a perfect substitute for Halibut but you could try Cod, Flounder or maybe even Walleye instead. They are somewhat similar, will hold up well with your cooking method and should be less expensive than Halibut is these days.

                      Good luck and please let us know the results.