Oh how I WISH that I had stayed current with my blog over the last 8 months, but alas I’ve been so busy with 5 restaurants that weekly fish specials have come and gone! Here is one for Winter; I love meaty white fish over smokey mushrooms and lentils with fat chewy chunks of lardon and creamy earthy sunchoke smear.
Remember this fish from High School Biology? It’s the one that begins swimming upright and ends flat swimming on the ocean floor, the bottom facing eye migrating be next to the top facing one. I use Fluke mostly for fancy ceviche-esque dishes, but it’s tasty pan fried too. Dust the fillet with a light coating of Wondra (super fine flour) before pan searing for a light crispy texture – a little trick I picked up at Le Bernardin many years ago.
Pan searing fish tips…
1. Use a well seasoned flat (not wonky) cast iron sauté pan or a heavy bottomed non-stick pan. The bonus of using a cast iron skillet is that you can pop it in the oven without the handle melting. Most professional non-stick pans can take limited time in a hot oven – but it’s not recommended. Probably obvi but, if your skillet is not flat you will not get an even sear.
2. Add enough high-heat canola oil to coat the pan generously and make sure the oil is shimmering and almost smoking before adding the fish. Place the fillet in the pan delicately, don’t just throw it in because you’re afraid of getting burned – you’ll make a mess with hot oil and do the very thing you were trying not to do!
3. Use a fish spatula to press down firmly for ten seconds. This technique will ensure that your fish cooks evenly and flat without curling up at the edges.
4. After the ‘spatula press’ of the fish; release. Give the pan a gentle shake by swirling the pan in a circular movement, loosening the fish to swirl about too, all the while keeping the skillet on the grates and over the heat. Stop the swirl motion and press the fish again with the spatula for ten seconds. Then swirl again gently. Why give it a swirly? Because sometimes there are little spots that burn on the fish and this allows oil to move freely underneath providing even coloration.
5. After two minutes, stick the pan in the oven without flipping the fillet. Let the fish cook at 450˚F for about 4 minutes (depending on thickness) until you can see that the edges are white and the face of the fish has lost some of it’s translucency – but not all of it – medium rare is always the desired temperature for fish. If the fish is thin, then skip this step and go to the next.
5. Take the skillet out of the oven and place it back on the stove top (no heat required, the pan will be hot enough at this point). Using your fish spatula and two fingers to hold it in place, carefully flip the fish over (no splashing) and kiss the face side for thirty seconds. Voilà! – your fish is perfectly cooked!
Pan sear like a pro! And happy holidays!
- 2 6oz fluke fillets, or other white fish like halibut
- 2 cups puy lentils or green lentils
- 4 cups stock (veg or chicken or even water is fine)
- 1 leek, outer leaves removed and white to light green part finely diced
- 1/2 cup lardon (or thick cut bacon cut into 1/2-inch strips)
- 1 cup wild mushrooms (I used Hedgehog, Hon-shemiji, baby Shitake)
- 1/2 bunch of fresh spinach, washed, ends trimmed
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 pound sunchokes, choose the big to medium sizes if possible
- 1 pat butter
- 1/4 cup cream
For the Lentil Salad: Cook the lentils in stock according to package directions. Normally this means washing the lentils and picking out any bad ones, then simmering in water or stock until al dente – about 15 to 20 minutes.
In a skillet sauté the leeks and lardon on medium until the lardon is rendered and the leeks are soft, remove to plate and keep warm. Without rinsing out the sauté pan, turn the heat up to medium-high and sear the mushrooms with thyme until browned, Add to the lardon pate. If there is still enough bacon fat left in the pan quickly sauté the spinach. If no, add a tablespoon of canola oil and wilt the spinach, then add it to the other mise en place. When ready to serve toss everything together with lentils in a sauté pan over medium high heat and add a little dijon mustard for kick if desired.
For the Sunchoke Smear: in a small pot cover the sunchokes with water and place on the stove to boil. Cook until sunchokes are easily pierced with the tines of a fork. Remove from water and allow to cool slightly. Scoop the flesh out of the skin and blend with butter, cream, and a little sea salt to taste. Set aside. Sunchokes discolor so this is best to make the day of.
For the Fish: Season the fluke fillets with Kosher salt and a little white pepper. Dust with Wondra by shaking the fine flour over it and then blowing off the excess. It's important that the flour is evenly and thinly coated. Set on a plate until ready to sear. Heat a cast iron or non-stick pan over high heat. Add enough high-heat canola oil to generously coat the bottom (but not enough that you are deep frying the fish – it should just coat the pan with a little excess to make swirling easy.) Follow the instructions from the post for in depth frying instructions. (recapped briefly below)
When the oil is shimmering and almost smoking add fish. Place the fillet in the pan delicately.
3. Use a fish spatula to press down firmly for ten seconds. After the 'spatula press' of the fish; release. Give the pan a gentle shake by swirling the pan in a circular movement, loosening the fish to swirl about too, all the while keeping the skillet on the grates and over the heat. Stop the swirl motion and press the fish again with the spatula. Then swirl again gently.
5. After two minutes, stick the pan in the oven without flipping the fillet. Let the fish cook in a hot oven (450˚F) for about 4 minutes (depending on thickness) until you can see that the edges are white and the face of the fish has lost some of it's translucency – but not all of it – medium rare is always the desired temperature for fish. If the fish is thin, then skip this step and go to the next.
5. Take the skillet out of the oven and place it back on the stove top. Carefully flip the fish over (no splashing) and kiss the face side for thirty seconds. Voilà! – your fish is perfectly cooked!
Serve the fish over the lentil salad and add a swoop of sunchoke purée on the side. Enjoy!