Recipe: how to make perfect pan-roasted halibut like the Harbord Room’s Cory Vitiello

Recipe: how to make perfect pan-roasted halibut like the Harbord Room’s Cory Vitiello

Toronto Life Cookbook Recipe 2013: Pan-Roasted Halibut

By Cory Vitiello
The Harbord Room
By Cory Vitiello
The Harbord Room

PREP TIME: 1 hour
COOK TIME: 2 hours 30 minutes
Serves 4


⅓ cup unsalted butter
⅓ cup arborio rice
4 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp white pepper
1 pinch chili flakes
4 sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 tbsp dry white wine
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 – 3 pinches salt


1 lemon
2 cups rhubarb, roughly chopped
½ cup water
¼ cup honey
¼ cup raspberry vinegar
½ cup olive oil


½ lb heirloom baby carrots
1 ½ cup apple cider vinegar
⅓ cup honey
2 tbsp salt
2 tsp each mustard seed, fennel seed, black peppercorns and crushed coriander seed
1 dried chili pepper (or ½ tsp chili flakes)
4 halibut fillets, preferably skin-on, each 4 to 6 oz
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add rice, thyme, bay leaves and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes. Add remaining soubise ingredients. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 2 to 2 ½ hours until onions are soft. Discard bay leaves. Drain and reserve liquid. Place soubise in a blender and pulse with a bit of cooking liquid until smooth.

2. To prepare vinaigrette, place rhubarb, water and honey in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until rhubarb is soft. Using a hand blender, mix in vinegar, and lemon juice and zest. Slowly blend in oil. Season with salt to taste.

3. To prepare pickled carrots, pull long strips from carrots using a vegetable peeler and place in a jar. Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain over carrots and refrigerate for 2 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Season halibut fillets with salt. Heat oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over high. Cook fish, flesh-side down, for 1 minute, then roast in oven for 6 to 10 minutes until a knife inserted into the thickest part of the fish for 10 seconds comes out warm. Serve over warm soubise. Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with pickled carrots.

Toronto Life Cookbook Recipe 2013: Pan-Roasted Halibut
Vitiello likes to serve this dish with boiled cranberry beans. The white-and-pink-spotted legumes have a mild, chestnutty flavour. You can buy them fresh in the summer, or dried and shelled in the winter.

Toronto Life Cookbook Recipe 2013: Pan-Roasted HalibutCORY VITIELLO

On its own, halibut is a dull fish—a little flaky, a little sweet and completely unremarkable. Cory Vitiello, the chef-owner of the buzzy Harbord Room in the Annex, has given it a much-needed makeover. He uses line-caught halibut from Hooked in Leslieville, roasts it until it’s crisp-skinned and flaky, and tops the fish with an acid-tongued rhubarb vinaigrette, tangy pickled carrots and a sweet, light onion soubise. This recipe changes with the seasons, so you can sub in peach for rhubarb and it will still have that tart punch.

Recipes developed by Victoria Walsh. Recipe photography by Raina and Wilson. Illustrations by Aleksandar Janicijevic. Interviews by Meaghan Binstock, Chantal Braganza, Matthew Hague, Peter Saltsman, Courtney Shea and Caroline Youdan.