Hawaiian Kanpachi Stuffed with Dungeness Crab

WITH CHEF PALEY                        SERVES 4-6                               TIME: 45 MINUTES

Impress your guests with this Recipe!




Part: Whole Butterflied 


I know what you are thinking…

Whole roasted fish? Stuffing? How long is this going to take?

This dish is not going to come together in an hour. Well, maybe, if you are focused, but why rush?

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, wrote in The Physiology of Taste “The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star.”  I wholeheartedly agree. Now that I am reciting famous quotes, here is another:

"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" - Aristotle

Mr. Aristotle, were you hungry for Dungeness Crab Stuffed Hawaiian Kanpachi when you wrote this?

Ok, all joking aside, if you allow yourself some uninterrupted time in the kitchen, I promise the experience of making this dish will be a positive one and you and your guests will be rewarded with something very, very uniquely special.

To debone and butterfly a whole Hawaiian Kanpachi, check out this helpful video.

If you still don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, ask your fish monger to help. Most will embrace the challenge. 

- Chef Vitaly Paley



1 lb Dungeness crab meat

1 wheel Boursin cheese, any flavor

Zest of half an orange

1 large scallion, sliced thin

1 small fennel bulb - tops trimmed, finely diced

1 rib celery - trimmed, finely diced

¼ cup picked parsley leaves, finely chopped

¼ cup picked sill sprigs, coarsely chopped.

¼ cup picked mint leaves, finely chopped.

¼ cup picked basil leaves, finely chopped.

2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Kosher salt freshly ground black pepper

1, 3-to-4-pound deboned whole Hawaiian Kanpachi

Butcher’s twine

2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil

1 cold stick of butter - cut into ½ inch pieces.

Several lemon wedges for garnish

(Fondue Sauce recipe below)



Prepare a straight sided sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Set up a fine mesh strainer over a large mixing bowl, transfer the crab meat into the strainer. Grab a handful of crab, cupping your hands, squeeze as much liquid out of crab as you can directly over the strainer filled with crab into a bowl underneath. Transfer the squeezed crab meat onto a prepared sheet pan and repeat with the rest of crab meat.

Transfer the resulting crab water into a smaller container, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to make the sauce. Depending on how moist the crab is, you should have approximately quarter cup of crab water.

Spread the crab meat on half of the sheet and using your fingers pick through the meat little by little feeling for small bits of shells. As you pick through the first batch of crab and its free of shells, push it to the open side of the sheet pan separating picked from to be picked. Repeat until all the crab is picked through and is on the opposite half of the sheet pan. Discard the bits of shell. Transfer the picked crab meat into a small container, cover and refrigerate until ready to make stuffing.

In a large mixing bowl, assemble Boursin cheese, orange zest, sliced scallions, fennel, celery, parsley, dill, mint, and basil. Combine it together with a potato masher or a fork. Add the reserved crab meat, Old Bay, breadcrumbs and mix until it is well combined. Taste, for seasoning. You may not need any salt or pepper as Old Bay, crab and Boursin cheese are all well-seasoned. If you are not ready to proceed to the next step, transfer the stuffing into a smaller container, cover and refrigerate. This stuffing will hold well refrigerated for several hours. I don’t recommend making it too far in advance like the day before as herbs tend to lose their freshness quickly.

To stuff your Hawaiian Kanpachi, open the fish on a cutting board skin side down. Season it generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Place the stuffing in the middle of the fish and start pushing the stuffing along the spine towards the head and the tail. Don’t spread or flatten the stuffing too much as it will naturally do this when you fold the filet over. Pay particular attention to the head cavity, it can hold quite a bit of stuffing so take advantage of this gift of space. When you feel the stuffing is in the right place, fold one of the filets over the other and press gently. Look at your handy work, make sure there is about a half an inch border all around where you can clearly see the unstuffed filet. As fish cooks, it contracts, and it would be a shame to lose this precious stuffing in a hot pan.


Now it’s time to tie the fish so it stays together as it cooks. Start by cutting several pieces of butcher’s twine each about 3 to 4 times the width of the fish. Slide one at a time under the fish from tail to head and position them about an inch apart. Tie them all individually firmly but gently to not pierce through the flesh. Cut off the access string.

When ready to cook Kanpachi, place a cast iron griddle or a sturdy baking sheet inside the oven and preheat to 400F.

Pour the olive oil into the griddle. Carefully place the stuffed Kanpachi into the pan and cover the oven door. Let the fish cook for 15 minutes. Open the oven and using thongs or spatula or both, carefully turn the fish over. Close the oven and cook it for an additional 15 minutes. If you are able, test with a probe thermometer. You want the Internal temperature of the fish to register 140F to 145F for medium. Cook it longer if you like it done more. If you don’t have a thermometer, insert a bamboo skewer or a paring knife into the thickest part of the fish. If it goes in without resistance, the fish is done. Cook it longer if it takes effort to go in.

Carefully remove the fish and transfer it to the cutting board. Let it rest while making the sauce.


Pour in the reserved crab water into small saucepan and over high heat bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and while stirring with a whisk add the cold butter couple pieces at a time until all is incorporated, melted, and emulsified. Do not boil or simmer the sauce as it will break. When done, set aside, and keep warm.

When ready to serve, using a small paring knife or sharp scissors, cut all the strings off and discard. Using a sharp knife, bread knife may work well too, cut Kanpachi into about two-inch slices, carefully place the slices on a platter reassembling the shape of the fish as best as possible. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with the Crab Fondue sauce.

Do you have questions or comments for Chef Vitaly Paley? Leave comments below!

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