Pan-roasted fish fillets is a quick & easy way to prepare fish. Unfortunately this dish can easily turn ugly when you overcook the interior and over-brown the exterior. A nice piece of pan-roasted fish should ideally be moist with a thin light brown crust. Some cooks use a light dust of flour to create a crust but this can become pasty or taste too much like a poorly fried piece of fish. Another way to create the crust is using sugar – a very light dusting of sugar will help form a very thin caramel brown crust. When sugar breaks down to glucose & fructose under the heat, it doesn’t require as much heat to caramelize as a normal 300 degree sear. This not only helps to form that beautiful crust, but also keeps the fish interior moist.
I have to admit, I’m not a pro at this and still working on the technique. It seems easy enough but I’ve had problems – it may be the type of skillet I use or my heating is off, but my crust doesn’t develop as thickly and dark as I’d like. Although I haven’t mastered the crust, this is pretty much a foolproof method for a moist roasted fillet. I’ve prepared with a green olive relish; the tangy richness of the olives mixes nicely with the sweet orange and almond. Give it a try and if you have any suggestions for the sugar crust please share!
You will need an oven-safe skillet, preferably non-stick. Try to buy fillets that are of similar thickness. For a healthy plate, serve with a leafy green salad and steamed green beans. Make a simple salad dressing by whisking 2 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice, and S/P. Drizzle the steamed beans with a hint of olive or walnut oil and a dash of salt. Wine suggestion: a light Sauvignon Blanc.
- 4 skinless white fish fillets (6 -8 ounces ideally, halibut, cod, red snapper work great)
- 1/2 tsp. sugar (in a small dish)
- 1 tbsp. canola oil
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- 1/2 cup green olives, rinsed and drained
- 1 garlic clove
- Orange zest, about 1 tsp. or more to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
- Prepare your relish by pulsing the almonds, olives, garlic, and orange zest in a processor until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the OJ, olive oil, and vinegar. Season with salt to taste. Store in the fridge while you cook the fish.
- Adjust your oven rack to middle and heat to 425 degrees. Dry the fish and season with S/P. Sprinkle 1/8 tsp. sugar evenly over 1 side of each fillet. Heat oil in a skillet over high heat until smoking.
- Place the fillets in the skillet, sugar side down, and press down lightly to ensure even contact with the pan. Cook until browned, about 1 minute. Carefully flip the fillets and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast the fillets until the center is just opaque (135 degrees), about 7 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.
- Remove from heat immediately and spoon relish over fish to serve.
Recipe source: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Time: 3o minutes