Pan-roasting is the ideal way to cook fish. When armed with this easy-to-master technique, you will be cooking all types of fish dishes like a pro.
Two simple steps are all it takes. First, sear the fish until it has a nice golden crust, and then finish cooking it in the oven to keep the fish moist and flaky. From start to finish, pan-roasting should take only 8 to 15 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the fish you are cooking. Easy and quick -- making it perfect for weeknight dinners.
There are a few tricks that chefs use to achieve that perfect golden crust.
Number 1, make sure your oil and pan are hot enough. If the oil is too cool, your fish will stick. I suggest warming the olive oil in an ovenproof skillet (cast-iron works really well) over medium-high heat. The oil is the perfect temperature when a few droplets of water sizzle when carefully sprinkled in the skillet.
Listen to your fish; it will tell you when it is done to perfection. I recommend you first sear the fish skin-side up to form that delectable golden crust on the flesh side. The fish tells you it is ready to be flipped when it easily releases from the pan. If it sticks, it is telling you it needs to be cooked longer.
Use a fish spatula to flip fish. Longer and more flexible than a traditional metal spatula, it slides neatly beneath fish without breaking the delicate flesh, while the slots allow cooking oil to drain back into the pan. Retailing for $15 or less, it is a good investment.
In this recipe, I simply season the fish with salt and pepper and add an extra boost of flavor with a compound butter. By changing the types of fish and the seasonings, you can create a multitude of dishes with this technique.
Examples of other pan-roasted fish recipes include Honey Mustard Salmon, Blackened Catfish and Tilapia Tacos.
Jennifer Chandler is the author of "Simply Salads" (Thomas Nelson, $24.99) and "Simply Suppers: Easy Comfort Food Your Whole Family Will Love" (Thomas Nelson, $24.99). She lives in East Memphis with her husband and two daughters. For more dinner ideas, visit cookwithjennifer.com.
Pan-Roasted Sea Bass with Chive-Garlic Compound Butter
For the Chive-Garlic Compound Butter:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
2 tbsp. finely minced fresh chives
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of kosher salt
For the Pan-Roasted Sea Bass:
4 sea bass fillets (4 to 6 oz. each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
To make the Chive-Garlic Compound Butter: In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the chives, garlic and salt, and mix until thoroughly combined.
Spoon the mixture in the shape of a log onto a piece of parchment paper. Fold the paper over itself. Using your hands, shape the butter into a cylinder about 11/2 inches wide (almost like making a Tootsie Roll). Once it is shaped, twist the edges to seal it. Place in the freezer to set, about 20 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, slice the roll into 1/4 -inch rounds and remove the parchment. (Only 4 slices of compound butter are need for this recipe.)
To cook the fish: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Generously season the sea bass with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat, warm the oil until a few water droplets sizzle when carefully sprinkled in the skillet. Sear the sea bass, skin side up, until the meat is well browned and easily releases from pan, about 4 minutes. Flip over and cook until seared, about 1 minute. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the fish is medium-rare, about 5 minutes, or until desired doneness.
Serve with a slice of compound butter on top.
Cooking Tip: Compound butter is simply butter with an added flavor or two mixed in. These butters are a very easy way to look like you went to a lot of trouble. In addition to fish, compound butter is also delicious with potatoes, corn on the cob, vegetables and steaks. Experiment with your favorite flavors. Some of my other favorite compound butter combinations are Lemon Chive, Fresh Herb, Bacon Blue Cheese, Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nut.
The rolled butter can be stored for up to 1 month in the freezer.