Sometimes we catch while we are fishing and sometimes we make a trip to the market. However that freshly caught, local fish appeared in your kitchen, there are a few tried and true ways to prepare them. Pan searing is one of them. Depending on thickness, adjust your cooking time, otherwise, pick a fish, any fish. This method is simple, as long as you conquer the most difficult step of all, patience.

While cooking the fish it is always nice to have something to nibble. Spring means local red radishes are quite snappy with a bit of local butter and a smidge of good salt. What is in the fridge is also a good starting point for a tasty sauce or a sassy accompaniment. Bring on the beets and make a kicky, garlic tzatziki. It will win over even the staunchest beet haters.


Radishes with Butter and Good Salt

1 bunch locally grown radishes, chilled

¼ pound unsalted, organic butter, room temperature

good sea salt(s)

thinly sliced baguette

Cut the greens off the radishes and reserve for a stir-fry. Slice the radishes thin and drop into bowl of ice water. For service, find a tray or use a cutting board. Place the butter in a charming little bowl. Do the same with one or more of your favorite salts. Find the cute spreaders (in that drawer, remember?) and place everything on the tray or cutting board. Take the bounties to your favorite respite and enjoy, or share with friends if you invited them. For the uninitiated, smear a bit o’ butter right on the radish and dot with a bit of salt. You can also smear the bread, and then line with radishes and salt. This is one of my favorite seasonal treats.


Pan-Seared Local Catch

2 fillets of fresh, local catch

local sea salt

cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons decent olive oil

2 tablespoons real butter

¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

cast iron skillet or saute/fry pan

Check your fish to make sure you have removed all bones and scales. Gently pat the fillets dry and clean using a paper towel. Try not to run the fish under tap water; it may sound logical, but it isn’t, the fish will start to break down. Once clean and mostly dry, season with a bit of sea salt and pepper.

When you are ready to start cooking, begin heating your skillet on medium-high heat. You are looking for hot, but not smoking. Add olive oil and butter and swirl around in pan to cover bottom. If your butter browns immediately, your pan is too hot. If you like the flavor of brown butter, proceed. If not, clean your pan and start again. (That is what I would do. I do not like brown butter.)

Put your flour in a vessel that is large enough to hold one fillet. Gently move one fillet at a time around in the flour to cover. Turn it over. Coat the whole fillet. Shake gently to remove excess. Ease the fish into the foamy, hot butter. You should hear a little sizzle. Repeat with the other fillet.

Now: PATIENCE. Leave it alone. Make sure the temperature isn’t too high.  How do you know? Practice. If the butter is beginning to brown rapidly, your pan may be too hot. If the fillet is thick, at some point you may want to slide it into a 350-degree oven to finish cooking after you achieve your sear.

Note: You can sear without flour, but this recipe gives you a little extra assurance on a browned exterior. If the fish you have is tuna, for example, you might prefer it rare with a quick sear that does not allow for time to cook the flour, so you wouldn’t use it. If you intend to cook the tuna to medium or beyond, floured is a great option.

When you think it is time to turn, check the fish by gently lifting with a spatula. Fish and tongs are not a good match. Gentle is a key word. Gentle and Patient. If you have the brown sear you desire, turn the fish; if not, leave it alone. Step away from the stove.

When both sides of fish have sufficient sear, and be careful not to overcook to try to achieve this, the fish may show natural signs of doneness.

White fish may flake or separate when done. Remember that most fish continue to come up in temperature after they are removed from the pan. Be sure to test for doneness to your preference before completely removing from pan, while also removing it just before it is perfect.

Plate fish and top with a special sauce, like beet tzatziki. Use your good dishes, pour a chilled glass of cucumber water and savor your success.

Beet Tzatziki

3-4 medium size beets

2 large cloves minced garlic

Juice of ½ lemon or a dash of red wine vinegar (or both!)

1½ cups plain whole-milk yogurt

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh dill

local sea salt

black pepper

Steam, boil or roast beets until tender. Cool, remove skin and grate.

Mix all ingredients together, chill and serve aside the grilled fish. This can be made up to three days ahead of time.

This is delicious plated with sautéed greens – try arugula or spinach – with a few black olives and a crumble of feta. It’s also tasty as a party dip, just serve with a few baked pita chips.

Recipes courtesy of Outer Banks Epicurean

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