Sunday, October 24, 2010

Branzini- what's that?

Greetings all,

Apologies for my extended absence. There has been an addition to my family (new nephew!) and then i got sick. really sick. so all the soupiness that BGC has been focusing on has been even more helpful in my time of ill.

My mom was in town over the weekend, taking a little tour of the NY, NJ, Philly area to see some family members (who knew October was such a family-oriented month?) and in her Fairway run to pick up the additional ingredients we needed to make a soup for sick ol me, she couldn't resist the fish counter- they had fresh whole branzini (aka mediterranean sea bass).

So they filleted them up for her, and she brought them home. By the end of the day, our soup making and general lazing about had both exhausted us and filled our tummies, and the branzini fillets remained in the fridge untouched. I promised her that I would cook them up today, while i stayed home and continued my recovery, and I figured it was worth documenting for the fantastic cause of Operation DATES (Developing A Taste for Eating Seafood).

As you can see from the photo, these fillets of branzini are thin and delicate. These types of delicate fish fillets are perfect for sauteeing, as they cook quickly, and don't require too much fussing. Main point is that they don't have to be intimidating if you aren't too used to cooking fish. Per my mom's wise instructions, i patted the fillets dry, and put together some flour with salt, pepper, and a little cayenne. I lightly dredged the fillets, and heated a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan until it shimmered. I laid the (very thin) fillets in the pan, skinless-side down, and let them cook about 4 minutes per side.

I read that when sauteeing, always lay the nicest looking side down first, as the first side down gets the nicest, even-est brown. I am not sure if this is true or not, but I figure since one side had skin, and one didn't, i would try laying the skinless-side down. This worked fine, but next time, I might try skin-side down first, just to see how it goes.

Once the fillets were done, I set them aside on a plate with a paper towel to wick out any residual vegetable oil, and "tented" them. This involves taking a piece of foil and placing it over the cooked food in a tent style, so that the foil is folded, and the center crease is above the food. the foil doesn't need to touch the food, nor does it need to be folded under the plate. This serves the purpose of keeping the food warm, without trapping in the heat to further cook the fish with steam.

To the pan in which the fish was cooked, I added 2 minced garlic cloves, a half cup of canned crushed tomatos (I had a large can of crushed tomatos open from a slow-cooker meal I prepared earlier, and wanted to use them) as well as a plum tomato, chopped medium, a tablespoon of capers, some chopped olives, salt (but just a pinch, as the capers and olives add a nice salty flavor), pepper, and crushed red pepper. I let this cook for a few minutes, and then added about a half cup of white wine in order to make it a little saucier, also because wine+sauce=yum. I cooked it for a few minutes longer to allow the sauce to thicken, and then added some minced cilantro.

I like to taste as I go, it helps me to not only cook the dish I am making more to my taste, but also to get a feel for how the dish changes as I add things. This helps me to better gauge how i want to make dishes in the future.

Once the sauce was finished, I took a fillet, peeled off the skin (it came off very easily), and put a nice helping of sauce over the fish. I know, the plate looks a little empty, and needed a side of salad or rice, but I'm sick, so give me a break.

The end results of the Branzini, Operation DATES, experiment was a nice, delicate fish with a strong, almost briny sauce. It had a little kick from the cayenne in the coating, and the crushed red pepper in the sauce, and I always like a little kick.

So get out there and cook some fish! other fishes that would work this way are fillet of sole, flounder, tilapia, the list goes on. When you stop at the fish counter in the grocery store, look for thin fillets, and don't be afraid to ask the person behind the counter, they are very knowledgable and usually happy to help!


  1. Glad you enjoyed one of my favorite fishes. I was salivating even though I already had dinner. I made stuffed squid over pasta. Great taste and would be a good posting. They are a bit complicated but made in quantity they get better the longer they soak in the sauce.

  2. This definitely inspires me to DATES! Thanks for representing for the seafoodies out there :D