Fishy fishy who's got the fishy ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

04 May 2012

Fishy fishy who's got the fishy

Here, fishy fishy...hop into my hot hot cast-iron pan filled with sizzling butter, why don't you?

seared butterfish filet

After poaching and baking, searing is definitely the next step up the ladder toward fish mastery. This is my favorite method of cooking fish by far. It's incredibly fast and easy, requires minimal equipment and ingredients, and produces a remarkably delicious piece of finished fish--and yet it seems that most people just learning to cook fish are scared of it.

It's ok! You can do it! Searing only really requires a hot pan, a decent spatula, and a close eye on the cooking situation. The most likely danger is overcooking--but unless you walk out of the kitchen and let your entire pan burn to a crisp, the finished product will be at least edible, and more likely very good indeed.

On this occasion, I had a filet of butterfish, a piece of butter, a couple chives, and some salt and pepper--and you could get away without the chives.

I prefer to cook thinner filets of fish as opposed to gigantic swordfish steaks, for instance, so these instructions are written for filets maybe 3/4 inch/2 cm thick.

seared butterfish filet

Seared whitefish filet

whitefish filet: butterfish, tilapia, perch, sole, cod, whatev.
salt, pepper
chives or parsley
wedge of lemon to serve

To begin, find a reasonable cast-iron or stainless steel frying pan and put it over high heat. Nonstick pans will work too, but high heat is supposed to make them release chemicals, so...yeah. You need to get the pan very hot; this will 1. make the fish taste great and 2. keep the fish from sticking to the pan. Have an oven mitt ready, as the handle will most likely get hot too.

While your pan is heating, pat your fish filet dry with a paper towel and season it on both sides with salt and pepper. It's important to dry the fish so it won't spatter when it hits the hot butter later. You know what they say about oil and water, right?

When your pan is hot, put your oven mitt on the hand you'll use to hold the pan handle. Deposit a good tablespoon of butter into the pan; it will sizzle and froth almost immediately. Turn the pan so the butter gets distributed over its surface. Then quickly pick up your fish with a spatula (or fingers, if you're ok with the high heat cooking experience) and lay it flat in the pan. It will sizzle loudly.

Now LEAVE YOUR FISH STILL for about two to three minutes. Don't leave the kitchen. You can chop up a couple chives or a few leaves of parsley if you want, but make sure to watch the pan pretty closely.

After two or three minutes, depending on your stove, you'll start to see the fish contracting, turning opaque, and maybe even starting to flake around the edges. When this happens, the filet should be cooked and browned nicely on the bottom. So. Shake the pan a few times to loosen the fish filet; it'll be much more likely to stay intact if you shake instead of prying, so don't prod unless it's really stuck. When the filet slides free, flip it over with your spatula. Cook another two minutes, or until the entire filet is opaque and just barely ready to flake.

seared butterfish filet with cucumber mint raita

Put your finished filet on a plate. You may notice that it really wants to break into pieces at this point. That's totally fine (if a little messy); it just means the fish is entirely cooked. If you want, you can melt a little extra butter in the pan and pour it over the fish. Or you can just pour whatever butter is left in the pan over it.

Sprinkle your fish with chives or parsley, stick a wedge of lemon on the side, and eat ASAP. Fish must be eaten HOT.

I had my butterfish with cucumber and mint raita.

Cucumber and mint raita

plain yogurt

Chop up a cucumber (peeled or seeded at your discretion) and a handful of mint leaves. Mix them with a couple spoonfuls of yogurt and season with pepper. Eat.

Hooray! You seared fish! That wasn't so bad, was it?


Rebecca said...

Aww yeah. This is basically my I-don't-want-to-cook-dinner-tonight dinner lately. Frozen whitefish fillets thaw in like five minutes under running water while the pan heats up! How handy is that!

Eileen said...

That is a very good point--I do the thawing fish in tap water thing all the time! I usually just stick my filets in a bowl of warm water in the sink. Take note!

Jes said...

Fish cravings, I now have them! Le gorgeous whitefish--love the raita on the side. Mmm.

Joanne said...

You make searing fish seem so simple! I remember when I still ate meat, I couldn't sear it without it breaking into a gazillion pieces. You've just got SKILLZ girl.

Monica said...

I think my searing wizardry has suffered for two reasons: I don't have faith in my cast iron skillet, and don't use enough fat in the cooking. I need to get over this, because this is one of my favourite ways to have fish.

Kat said...

Mmm. This brings the maximum deliciousness/minimum effort ratio to a whole new level! I love the idea of searing it in the cast iron skillet.

Shu Han said...

oh that's great that you're giving all these methods of cooking fish a go. So many people seem to be really scared of cooking fish, but it's actually so simple, healthy, and of course delicious!

(I want a cast iron skillet ): )

Eileen said...

SKILLZ! Ha! My fish was definitely in pieces. On the other hand, it was also delicious, so who cares? ;)

And CAST IRON. Yes indeed. It's amazing how much better results you can get with a pan that seriously holds that heat.

Glad everyone liked it!

wildcraft diva said...

mmm, very appealing the idea of really fresh fish with cucumber and mint raita. There is an abbundance of wild mint here at the moment. I would never have thought of the combination, thankyou.
ps love the photo(especially the tootsies)