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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Think Like A Chef - Pan Roasted Fish

The next cooking adventure in Thinking Like A Chef was Pan Roasted Fish.  This was going to be interesting, being that Cathy does not like fish. 

The ingredients are pretty simple.  The original recipe called for red snapper, but I could not find that.  The book said any firm white fish would do, so I went with haddock.  The skin was to be left on.  Other ingredients included peanut oil, thyme, salt, pepper, and butter.

Now, after my last entry, there were quite a few comments about butter and the butter product I used.  All the comments, by the way, were greatly appreciated.  I decided to do more research, and I came across a website called  There was an article about the best and worst butter substitutes.  I will give you one guess what they felt the worst one was.  EXACTLY!  I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.  To quote from the website, “They all claim "zero trans fats" on the front label, yet their ingredients lists (sic) contain Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil - that's a code term for trans fats. What a scam!”  Hmmmm……..

Ok, what shall I use then?  After giving it much thought, and listening to everyone’s advice, I decided that, at least for this recipe, I would go with a butter product, but something that was more butter than product.  One of the products they recommended was Olivio spreadable butter.  It contains Sweet Cream, Canola Oil, Light Olive Oil, Salt, Flaxseed Oil and Natural Flavoring.  To quote the website, “This spread combines the best of both worlds - sweet cream plus healthy oils. It's also low in saturated fats and cholesterol - and contains no trans-fat!”

Of course, I went to the store and they didn’t have this.  Land O’Lakes makes something similar that had Sweet Cream, Olive Oil, and Salt.  Being that not much is going to be absorbed, this is what I decided to go with.  

Now, I made a major mistake.  I was to cook the fish skin side down to crisp up the skin.  I used the wrong pan.  I used a non-stick pan as you can see. 

They just don’t work for browning or crisping.  I made the decision to do this because I live in a condo and the fire alarms frequently go off.  The configuration of my stove is such that the regular burners are in the back, and there isn’t much room between the burner and the back of the stove.  On top of that, the vent we have is the bottom of the microwave so it doesn't exactly work very good.  That being said, I should have checked to see if the right pan would have fit back there, but I did not.  So I went with the non-stick, which I knew would fit.  Basically, I need a smaller fry pan and a better vent!

So in the peanut oil went, and heated up under medium heat.  When it was hot, I put in the fish.  One of the great lessons I learned in this chapter was heat control.  Colicchi says that as you hear the oil start to sputter, to turn down the heat so you only hear a sizzle.  So heat control was very important here.
About three minutes on each side, though a bit longer on the skin side. 

Then the better butter product (say that three times fast!) went in…I used two tablespoons, I could have cut that down by ½. Then cook for two more minutes on each side, occasionally basting the fish with the browning butter, all the while readjusting the heat as necessary.  When done, put the thyme on top of the fish, plate and drizzle the browned butter onto the fish.

I must say, the fish looked beautiful to me, and it tasted fantastic!  Not overcooked, juicy on the inside, firm, but not tough.  It must have been good, because Cathy ate the entire 6-oz piece!  A first!

As for the nutrition:  Again, figuring absorption of the peanut oil and the better butter product, I figure for a 6-oz fillet of haddock, 169 calories, 4.3 grams of total fat, 0 trans-fat.
So I learned a lot this time around.  I can’t wait to see what’s next!


  1. Good stuff! Can already see you are thinking (and problem solving) like a chef. Each attempt will get better and better as you use better ingredients (and substitutes), and see what cooking equipment works best for each situation. What about a side dish for the fish? Now with the Autumn season approaching, roasted root vegetables would be a great accompaniment to whatever you are plating up. Coarsely cut carrots, potatoes, parsnips and turnips coated lightly in oil, sprinkled with salt & pepper and some fresh we're talkin'! Keep on cooking!

  2. That's so funny that you say that! We actually roasted some carrots for a side dish!

  3. Believe it or not, you can still get browning with a non-stick pan. Make sure that the pan is HOT...that is a real key. It's the heat (and either the butter or oil) that make a sear....not so much the material that the pan is made of. I suggest you stick with non-stick, because it will also allow you to stay with your goals of keeping fat content down. Don't give up on non-stick!