Back when I first got my Tivo, I recorded too many episodes of a Discovery Channel series called “Great Chefs”. What they did was to send a film crew into a restaurant kitchen and tape the chef making a dish or two or three off of the menu. Being something of a food geek, it was occasionally interesting to watch someone really brilliant making something really excellent. In retrospect though, the show was pretty annoying.
However, after watching a few dozen episodes, I did notice and learn one critical thing. Always use the stove and the oven at the same time, especially when cooking portion sized pieces of meat and fish. With this in mind, here is an easy way to make perfect fish filets every time.
First, you go to Whole Foods and buy a good piece of fish. Whole Foods helpfully wraps the fish in a sturdy paper that is lined with plastic. For my purposes, rich medium thick pieces of fish work best. This means snapper, salmon filets, halibut, red trout and so on.
When you get the fish home, unwrap it and put it on the counter next to the stove. Keep the paper underneath the fish and dust it on both sides with flour, salt and pepper. Turn the oven on to 350-400 degrees. When the oven is hot, put a pan on the fire. When the pan is hot, put butter and olive oil and throw the fish in the pan. Roll up the paper wrapping and throw it out. No dishes!
Brown the fish on both sides and then put the frying pan in the oven. Cook for about 3-5 minutes for each inch of thickness, depending on how well done you like it. You should not like it that well done. For longer cooking times, turn the fish once.
When the fish is done, pull it out of the oven and let it rest. It will continue to cook while resting, so it is best to take it out underdone and let it get just right.
Serve with pan fried spinach and Whole Foods tater tots (really, I’m not kidding).
The key to this technique is that the pan puts a nice brown sear on the outside of the fish but the oven provides even all around heat so you can get the fish cooked through without burning it.
You can, of course use this same trick for steak. It also works well for frittatas.
If you want to get fancy, you can also deglaze the pan with wine and make a nice sauce with some shallots, stock and butter. Red wine, demiglace, shallots and butter is an especially nice combination on top of that New York strip steak.