Roasted Halibut With Tarragon and Hazelnut Brown Butter

tarra14As we noted a week or so ago, herbs are the first plants in our garden that really “pop” with the coming of spring. And while we get plenty of fresh goodies from the farmers market, there is nothing quite like getting the first taste of produce from our own garden. It sort of “hardens” the idea that spring is really here (for us, at least). Right now we have plenty of mint (cocktails on the way), marjoram and oregano, but this spring our tarragon (finally) took off. We couldn’t wait to use it.

tarratarra1And we knew exactly how we wanted to use the tarragon, as a flavoring for roasted fish. Here in Norcal, that usually means local halibut, rock cod/rockfish or salmon. In this case we use halibut, but any firm white fish will do. As for the cooking method, you can go sous-vide (and it would be great), but we also have a relatively foolproof roasting method for fish. We simply create a bed of citrus and herbs for the fish, add the fish and then layer on a bunch of butter, salt, pepper, more herbs and more citrus. This method also works with other herbs (thyme is one of our favorites), just make sure to bruise the herbs before you layer them in, this releases the oils and gets the flavor into the dish. Then roast the fish at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (depending on thickness) and serve.

tarra3tarra5So now that we had the herbs and the fish dialed, the big question was the sauce. A little internet search brought us to a tarragon and halibut recipe with a hazelnut and brown butter sauce from Bon Appetit. Nice. We adapted the recipe, particularly how we cook the fish, but also played a bit with the brown butter recipe. But the addition of the hazelnuts to the brown butter was all Bon Appetit’s, and we will certainly give credit to them for a good idea. This is a good extra touch and takes the sauce over the top.

tarra8tarra4Not that you can go wrong with brown butter sauce. If you have butter in your fridge and 10 minutes, you have a perfect sauce waiting to happen. Brown butter is easy to make and works beautifully with pasta, fish or earthy veggies. A sauce you need in your toolkit. The key is to cook the butter at medium heat until the milk solids get brown (not black, if you get close to dark brown, stop cooking the sauce) and develop a nutty flavor and aroma. You then just add seasoning and some herbs, sage is a natural fit but tarragon also works very well.

tarra9tarra11tarra12The last piece of the puzzle for this sauce was to add the chopped hazelnuts and a dash of lemon juice. The hazelnuts add more nutty flavor, but also some needed crunch to the dish. The lemon adds some acid and sourness to match the rich butter and fish. Overall you get sweet fish, savory brown butter and hazelnuts, earthy and herbal notes from the tarragon and acidity from the lemons that cleans the palate for the next bite. The extra bonus is that the brown butter sauce works beautifully with roasted asparagus (another spring crop), so we just roasted some asparagus spears and served them with the fish and the brown butter. Excellent, and all in less than 45 minutes. Like we said, we couldn’t wait to use our herbs…

tarra13Roasted Halibut With Tarragon and Hazelnut Brown Butter:

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)

Notes Before You Start:

  • The best way to check for doneness on fish is to use a digital thermometer. We think it is the most important kitchen tool after a sharp chef’s knife. If you don’t have one, the best way to check is to cut into the fish and look. Otherwise, pull the fish from the heat just before it’s done, it will keep cooking in residual heat.
  • Many resources will say halibut needs to be cooked to 145 degrees to be “safe”, we prefer it less cooked, closer to 130-135 degrees.

What You Get: A rich, flavorful and easy fish dinner in about 45 minutes.

What You Need: No special equipment required, but a digital thermometer would be nice.

How Long? About 45 minutes with 20 minutes of active time. Anytime dish.


(Serves 4-6)

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds halibut, skin removed
  • 1 large bunch of fresh tarragon
  • 2 large lemons thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a baking pan and put it in the oven. Cook the hazelnuts until lightly brown, about 8-10 minutes, and remove from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then rub off the skins (most of them, anyway) with a kitchen towel. Roughly chop and set aside.
  2. Keep the oven at 350 degrees. Rub the tarragon between your hands until very fragrant. Then, on a large baking sheet, layer on half of the tarragon and lemon slices. Then layer on the fish, dot with half of the butter, a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, the rest of the tarragon and the rest of the lemon slices. Place in the oven and cook until done, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut the filet(s) into portions for serving.
  3. While the fish cooks, place the rest of the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook until the butter foams and then browns (don’t let it get close to black), 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the hazelnuts, taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and the lemon juice.
  4. Place the fish on plates, with some of the tarragon and lemon slices. Spoon on the brown butter and hazelnut sauce. Serve.

45 thoughts on “Roasted Halibut With Tarragon and Hazelnut Brown Butter

  1. Let’s have this for dinner tonight, shall we?

    >________________________________ > From: Putney Farm >To: >Sent: Thursday, April 4, 2013 12:38:27 PM >Subject: [New post] Roasted Halibut With Tarragon and Hazelnut Brown Butter > > >putneyfarm posted: “As we noted a week or so ago, herbs are the first plants in our garden that really “pop” with the coming of spring. And while we get plenty of fresh goodies from the farmers market, there is nothing quite like getting the first taste of produce from our o” >

  2. This is so good … and of course the photo just make it … to HAVE to do. Halibut is a fantastic fish, but so expensive over here, nearly goes bankrupt when buying 4 pieces, but I will delight myself or I will try it with salmon. So this will be bookmarked.
    That was very soon back from you gate away – welcome back to the fresh herbs.
    Forgotten I agree about a thermostat. Very important tool.

  3. Looks great! In French brown butter is called beurre noisette, and hazelnut is also noisette. I’d cook the halibut to even less than 130 degrees. Fish can’t be ‘safe’ and juicy, so I just use fresh fish. Great post!

      • I live in Alaska and fish for halibut frequently. Halibut is a wormy fish and the parasites can make you sick (salmon can be wormy too). I would recommend not going too low on the temperature. I think 135 degrees is the lowest I would go personally.

        FYI, Halibut and salmon are also fish that you cannot serve as sushi without freezing first…even the best sushi restaurants freeze salmon and halibut for 36 hours minimum before using as sushi..

  4. I would be honored to be served this. What time shall I arrive?
    I caught halibut once fishing up in Alaska, but moved to Germany a week or so later and never got to enjoy the fish–I sent it off to friends to enjoy.

    • Thanks. We were a bit surprised as well, but the hazelnuts just amplify the nutty flavor of the brown butter and add texture, it works quite well and we will also use the sauce for veggies as well.

    • Hope you like it. We use this approach with most white fish and simply play with the herbs based on the other ingredients. You can also tent with foil and add a splash of wine if using a fish that dries our easily…

  5. Mmmm, thank you!
    – I thought “buerre noisette” too, when I saw the dish! It looks heavenly in your photos, and reminds me fondly of my French restaurant cooking days 🙂 I think it be very nice also with some Colorado trout…

  6. Pingback: Tarragon Halibut in Hazelnut Butter | Seattle Foodshed

  7. Pingback: Bloggers Cook Bon Appetit’s Tarragon Roasted Halibut with Hazelnut Brown Butter | Image of . . . Food

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