For Chef Joe Ritchie of Seattle’s Goldfinch Tavern, halibut is the first indication that spring is here in the Pacific Northwest. After featuring halibut with a smoked halibut and white wine cream on the Seattle Restaurant Week menu last month, Ritchie and his team liked the dish so much it’ll be on the regular menu starting in June at the lobby-adjacent restaurant in the Four Seasons.

“This dish was inspired by the desire to utilize the bones and scraps from the halibut,” Ritchie says. “Smoking the bones and then steeping them in cream adds a unique twist to what is considered by some to be the ‘vanilla ice cream’ of fish. Halibut, like vanilla ice cream, can be amazing if it’s done just right. But if not done right, it’s completely forgettable.”

The chef works hard to make this dish memorable and uses Washington wine to solidify that, both in the dish and paired with it. “I like to use the Skyfall Vineyards Pinot Gris for the wine in the recipe because it provides a little brightness and acid to the rich sauce without being too dominate a flavor,” he details. “I would pair this with a fuller bodied white wine. I love the Chaleur Estate Blanc from DeLille Cellars or the Conner Lee Chardonnay from Buty.”

Pro tip: for the halibut bones can be smoked on a grill or in a smoker. Goldfinch use pans on the stovetop.

Halibut with Smoked Halibut & White Wine Cream and Spring Vegetables
By Chef Joe Ritchie of Goldfinch Tavern
Serves 4

For the Smoked Halibut Sauce
1-2 pounds halibut bones (you can use halibut trim if bones are unavailable)
½ cup applewood chips
2-3 medium-sized shallots, diced
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups Skyfall Pinot Gris
4 cups heavy cream
1 sprig thyme
2 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt

For the Halibut
1 large fennel bulb
4 6-ounce portions halibut
Neutral oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup english peas
Fennel fronds, for garnish

For the sauce, smoke the bones or halibut scraps gently for 20 minutes using applewood chips.

Sweat the shallots with the lemon zest in a small amount of butter. Add the white wine and simmer until the wine is reduce by two-thirds. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the liquid to a simmer. Let the mixture simmer gently for 15 minutes then turn the heat off and let the mixture set for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer and cool the cream until ready to use.

For the roasted fennel, split the fennel bulb in half and rub with olive oil. Wrap the halves in aluminum foil and bake at 350° F for 20 minutes. Let cool and cut into thick slices.

For the halibut, season the fish with salt and pepper and sear in a hot pan using grapeseed oil or a similar neutral oil. Once the first side is golden brown, turn the fillets over and reduce the heat to low.

While the halibut is finishing, place the peas and fennel slices into a separate pan with butter. Over medium-low heat, saute for a 2-3 minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Warm the cream slightly and pour several tablespoons onto the bottom of a wide-rimmed bowl or plate. Arrange the peas and fennel in the center of the cream and top with one piece of halibut. Garnish with young fennel fronds.