The City Magazine Since 1975

Pan-Braised Fish Filets

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2 beeliner snappers, about 2 lbs. each

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

1 Tbs. vegetable oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbs. minced shallot

2 Tbs. minced celery heart

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup fish stock, recipe follows

2 Tbs. minced flat-leaf parsley

1 Tbs. minced tarragon

3 Tbs. snipped chives

2 tsp. minced lemon zest

2 oz. cold unsalted butter, diced

For the fish stock:

Fish bones and heads from your beeliner snappers, about 1 lb. (save the scraps to make the chowder)

1 Tbs. olive oil

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

1/2 cup peeled and chopped carrot

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 sprigs fennel fronds

Bouquet garni: 2 stems flat-leaf parsley, 4 sprigs thyme, and 1 bay leaf tied together with butcher’s twine


Buy a whole fish and ask your fishmonger to scale and gut the fish; fillet four (five-ounce) skin-on portions; and give you the scraps, bones, and heads—gills removed.

Season both sides of the filets with salt and a bit of freshly cracked pepper.

Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to easily accommodate the filets. (There should just be a very thin sheen of oil.) Carefully place the filets in the skillet, skin-side down. Cook them without disturbing for three to four minutes. The filets will be ready to turn over when they begin to whiten around the edges. (If you try to turn them and they stick, wait another minute.) Carefully flip the filets. Reduce the heat to low.

Scatter the garlic, shallots, and celery heart around the filets. After about 30 seconds, add the wine and fish stock. Gently cook the filets through, no more than two to three minutes depending on thickness of fish. The filets should be firm and almost flake with a fork. Transfer the filets to a warm serving platter or four warm individual plates. Cover lightly.

Increase the heat to medium and add the herbs and lemon zest to the skillet. Remove the skillet from the heat, whisk in the butter, and spoon the sauce over and around the filets.

Rinse the bones and heads. Refrigerate them in ice water for about 30 minutes to pull the impurities out.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the celery, onion, and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Add the fish bones and heads and cook them, stirring continuously to expose all the surfaces to the heat, for about 15 minutes. Add the wine and scrape up any bits of fish sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the fennel fronds, bouquet garni, and enough water to barely cover everything. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off and discarding any scum that rises to the surface. Remove the stock from the heat and strain, gently pressing on the solids to capture as much liquid as possible.

30 min