Recipe roulette: grill poached halibut with tomatillo and Anaheim chili “pesto”

I play a game with my husband sometimes, only he doesn’t know I’m playing it.  When I send him off to the market to pick up something for dinner and he asks me what I want him to buy,  I usually just say, “pick up a couple of proteins and a few veggies.”  I leave the rest up to him.  He then comes home with a bag full of Whole Foods and I have to figure out how to turn this bag into dinner.  It’s a recipe roulette of sorts, my own personal “Chopped” show, and I like it because it keeps my skills sharp.  You see, my husband’s choices can be random at times, but that’s the challenge and the fun of it.

Like the other night, when Big N came home with a hunky piece of Alaskan halibut, skirt steak, Italian eggplants, tomatillos, and two Anaheim chili peppers.  I let the recipe roulette play out in my head, reserving the skirt steak and eggplants for an easy grilled dinner the next night, and focused on the halibut, tomatillos, and chili peppers.  Hmm, what to do?  With some input from Big N, here’s what we came up with: olive oil poached halibut on the grill, with a grilled tomatillo and Anaheim “pesto” sauce.

I let Big N take lead on the fish, because he can make a mean “grill packet” out of heavy duty foil, the perfect vessel to poach a fish in oil on the grill, while I worked the sauce.  For the sauce, Big N grilled the tomatillos and chilis until they were charred, soft, and moist. I then peeled the chilis and threw them along with the tomatillos into the mini food processor, along with a few items I already had on hand: cilantro, pine nuts (as a thickener, which I first dry toasted on the stove to bring out their flavor), garlic, and half and half.  A few pulses and some salt and pepper later, I had a delicious, thick, creamy-tangy sauce with just a touch of heat from the peppers.

I also cooked up some quick polenta with chives and freshly grated parmesan (polenta and parmesan are two more staples I keep on hand).  And there you have it, olive oil poached halibut with tomatillo and Anaheim “pesto,” topped with grilled tomatillos, over polenta.  A winner to be sure, unlike your typical trip to the roulette table. halibut-tomatillo-4-of-4

Grill poached halibut with tomatillo and Anaheim chile pesto

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 30 minutes
Meal type Main Dish
Occasion Barbecue


  • 1 1/2lb Alaskan halibut
  • 3 tomatillos
  • 1 Anaheim Chile
  • 1/4 cup pinenuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup half and half (or cream, as needed)


  • 1 tablespoon cilantro (finely chopped)


Portion out halibut into two fillets and season both sides with salt and pepper. Make grill "packet" out of heavy foil. Pour generous amount of olive oil over fish and into packet.
Halibut Tomatillo (3 of 4)
Slide halibut packet onto grill over indirect heat. Also throw tomatillos and Anaheim pepper on the grill. Cover and grill tomatillos and pepper until slightly charred and soft. Grill halibut 10-12 minutes, depending on thickness, until slightly firm but still just a tad translucent and undercooked in the center. Remove and cover with foil to keep warm.
Halibut Tomatillo (2 of 4)
3. In a dry skillet, add pine nuts and toast over medium heat until they start to brown, shaking pan regularly to promote even toasting on all sides. Add chopped garlic clove and cook 1 minute.
In a blender or mini food processor, add tomatillos, chile, pine nuts and garlic clove, plus cilantro if using. Pour in 1/8 cup of half and half and pulse or blend until finely blended. Season with salt and pepper. If too thick, thin with more half and half until desired consistency is reached.
Halibut Tomatillo (1 of 4)
5. Serve fish (over polenta or sautéed veggies) and spoon sauce around fish on plate.

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