Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Seared Branzino with Cauliflower Puree and Caramelized Onion Sauce

I've been craving some pan seared fish - crispy skin and moist flesh, so I decided to flip open some cookbooks to get some ideas. After consulting with Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, Tom Collichio, and Andrew Carmellini for fish cooking techniques, I ended up using techniques from all of them. The final dish consisted of a creamy cauliflower puree and a subtly sweet and bright caramelized onion sauce (deglazed with sake, rice wine vinegar, tsuyu, and chicken broth). A great combo and a fun meal on a Sunday night - the crispy skin was awesome. I just need to work on my fish butchery next time.

Crispy Fish Skin Tips
1) Make sure the fish is bone dry - I used 4 layers of paper towels and patted them down and let it sit for 5 minutes. Also, Mr Keller uses the edge of a knife against the skin to squeegee the extra moisture off the skin - key to getting a nice crisp skin. You'll be surprised how much extra moisture you get off with this method.
2) Score the skin to prevent the skin and meat from curling up - a tip from Mr Carmellini. Also, press the fish down with a spatula for a minute to let the meat set up; otherwise it will curl up also. I didn't score my cod last week and the fish ended up curling up leaving me with crispy skin around the edges but soft skin in the center.
3) Season with salt and white pepper on both sides. White pepper ensures the fish still looks nice and clean instead of the gritty look that black pepper gives - courtesy of Mr. Ripert.
4) Cook over medium high heat to ensure crispiness of skin. Medium heat didn't crisp the skin enough for me. Touch the pan with the fish, skin side down. If it starts sizzling drop it in, if it does nothing let it heat up more. Cook till the meat is cooked 3/4 the way up - maybe 3-5 minutes depending on the size of the fish. Flip the fish over and cook for 30 seconds and remove. This will also ensure you get a real crisp skin.

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