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TIP OF THE DAY: Pan-Seared Fish, Crispy Skin

Sear that skin until it’s crisp! Photo courtesy
Pollen Restaurant.


Fish is healthy, low-fat protein; we all should eat more of it. Grilled or pan-seared fish is at the top of the list many nutritionists suggest for making better changes in your diet.

This is not news.

The news is: the fish doesn’t have to be dull. You can prepare it exciting without a cholesterol- and calorie-laden butter sauce.

Here’s how to keep it health and delicious.

1. Sear the skin. Crispy skin is a treat, without being a no-no. Yes, there’s some fat—but far less than chicken skin.

2. Use a very light sauce. Serve the fish in a bowl of broth (just a half inch or so). You can use clear stock, tomato-based broth or even vegetable soup. Another option: tomato sauce, like a chunky pasta sauce. Better brands, without added sugar, are very low in calories. We often use diced San Marzano tomatoes, straight from the can with some fresh herbs.


3. Top the fish with healthy vegetables. Steam the vegetables or lightly sautée them in olive oil. Combine three different vegetables for more arresting color and flavor. Don’t forget the super-healthful cruciferous group, including, among others, bok choy, chard, kale and Napa cabbage. Or instead of a topping, use vegetables as a base with the fish on top (spinach is great as a bed), and hold the broth.


4. Serve with whole grains, beans or legumes. A bed of barley, beans, brown rice, lentils or quinoa hits the trifecta: attractive, healthful, tasty. Or with a dollop of yogurt seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe some grated cucumber, radish, and garlic. Perch it on a bed of greens with an assertive vinaigrette.

5. Garnish with something artistic. Consider edamame, microgreens, snipped fresh herbs, sprouts, thin slices of baby radishes. Celery leaves are great for this purpose. Most people toss them out, but they’re an attractive and tasty garnish.

Crispy skin on a fish filet is a treat. Here’s how to do it.

1. HEAT a heavy-bottomed skillet (cast iron is great, nonstick doesn’t work as well) until it gets very hot; then reduce heat to medium-high heat for several minutes before you start cooking.


Get rid of the butter- or cream-based sauce. Photo courtesy Nobilio.


2. PAT the skin fry with a paper towel before seasoning (season both sides). If the skin sticks to the skillet, either the skin is too damp or the pan isn’t hot enough.

3. BRUSH fish with oil (canola or grapeseed) and apply an even coating of oil to the pan. It will smoke; that’s when you add the fish, skin side down. When the fillet curves upward, use a spatula to press it once and it will flatten out, ensuring full skin contact.

4. COOK until you see a golden brown color on the edge of the skin. The fish will be about 70% cooked. Then, gently slide the spatula under the fillet and flip it; cook for a few more seconds. You want to flip it just once; flipping it back and forth impedes proper cooking.

5. PLATE and serve.


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