Fillet ‘o fish: Branzino with Tarragon Pesto

At my local Seafood City or Whole Foods, I used to pass up beautiful whole fish glistening on ice in favor of boring prefabricated fillets because I was too scared to fillet them myself.  Now that I’ve dabbled in fish fabrication, I march right up to the fish monger and say, with total confidence: “gimme 2 of the whole Branzino over there and will you dress* them for me please?”  (Of course, shopping while still wearing my lovely checkered pants from culinary school may not be fashionable outside of the food industry, but at Whole Foods the pants give me street cred).

Branzino is a European bass species and is a delicate white fish that tastes like a cross between sole and trout.  You’re welcome to cook them whole, but Big N doesn’t like to work so hard for his food so I filleted mine, plus I needed to practice my filleting chops.  After filleting, I put the rest of the bodies into the freezer to be used for fish stock later (I think I’ll make a shrimp bisque for a future post).  I then pan sauteed the branzino with the skin on and served them drizzled with tarragon pesto, my own little concoction.  For sides I blanched some haricot vert (skinny French green beans), then sauteed them with roasted red pepper and lardon (bacon), a dish we made in class a while back.  (See branzino with tarragon pesto and haricot vert recipes, below).  I also had a gorgeous yellow beet so I cut it into rounds, drizzled with oil and salt, and roasted the sliced beet in the oven for about 45 minutes until nice and tender.

No wine last night– it’s good to take a night off once in a while (says Big N).  The fish didn’t need it anyway.  The branzino was light and delicate but flavorful, and the tarragon pesto with the lemon juice brought a freshness to the dish.  The green beans and red peppers with the delicious golden beets contributed nice color and flavor without the need for any carbs or starchy sides.  Totally satisfying.

*Lingo lesson: “dressed” fish are gutted and scaled but with the head, fins, and tails still in tact.  I’m not afraid to do this myself, but scaling is a messy job and the fish mongers wear waders for protection from flying scales.

branzino-5-of-5

Branzino with Tarragon Pesto

Serves 2
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 25 minutes
Meal type Main Dish

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces Branzino (whole is best, or 2 fillets per person, trout works too)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Tarragon (chopped)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Parsley (Italian or flat leaf)
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil (I like regular, not extra virgin for this recipe)
  • 1/8 cup Pine nuts
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 2 pieces Branzino (whole is best, or 2 fillets per person, trout works too)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Tarragon (chopped)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Parsley (Italian or flat leaf)
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil (I like regular, not extra virgin for this recipe)
  • 1/8 cup Pine nuts
  • 1/2 Lemon

Directions

1. Filet the fish, leaving skin on. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
2. Filet the fish, leaving skin on. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
3. Toast pine nuts in a dry hot pan until they just start to turn brown and become fragrant.
4. Toast pine nuts in a dry hot pan until they just start to turn brown and become fragrant.
5. Make the pesto: using a food processor, blender, or stick blender, blend tarragon, parsley and pine nuts. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon (no seeds). Slowly add oil while running blender until incorporated. Add a little salt.
6. Make the pesto: using a food processor, blender, or stick blender, blend tarragon, parsley and pine nuts. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon (no seeds). Slowly add oil while running blender until incorporated. Add a little salt.
7. Place oil in saute pan and heat on high until it slides easily across the pan but isn’t smoking. Place fish in oil, skin side down, for about 3 minutes depending on thickness of fish. Turn and cook another minute or two until fish is cooked through but still just a tad translucent inside.
8. Place oil in saute pan and heat on high until it slides easily across the pan but isn’t smoking. Place fish in oil, skin side down, for about 3 minutes depending on thickness of fish. Turn and cook another minute or two until fish is cooked through but still just a tad translucent inside.
9. Serve skin side up, drizzled with tarragon pesto.
10. Serve skin side up, drizzled with tarragon pesto.

Haricot Vert with Roasted Red Pepper and Lardon

Serves 2
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 15 minutes
Meal type Side Dish
Region French

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Haricot vert or green beans
  • 1 Red bell pepper
  • 2 oz Thick cut bacon or salt pork
  • 8 oz Haricot vert or green beans
  • 1 Red bell pepper
  • 2 oz Thick cut bacon or salt pork

Directions

1. Blanch green beans by placing in boiling salted water until just starting to get tender but not too soggy. Remove from water and immediately place in ice bath. Remove from ice when cool and dry on towel.
2. Blanch green beans by placing in boiling salted water until just starting to get tender but not too soggy. Remove from water and immediately place in ice bath. Remove from ice when cool and dry on towel.
3. Roast red pepper by putting directly onto gas burner with high flame. When the skin turns black then turn it and continue to turn until the skin is all charred black. Immediately put in container covered with plastic wrap to sweat. When cool, remove the skin by rubbing off with a paper towel. Cut in half to remove seeds and white pith, then slice in 1/4" slices.
4. Roast red pepper by putting directly onto gas burner with high flame. When the skin turns black then turn it and continue to turn until the skin is all charred black. Immediately put in container covered with plastic wrap to sweat. When cool, remove the skin by rubbing off with a paper towel. Cut in half to remove seeds and white pith, then slice in 1/4" slices.
5. Slice bacon in 1/4" pieces.
6. Slice bacon in 1/4" pieces.
7. Saute bacon until fat is rendered. Add blanched beans and roasted red pepper. Add salt to taste. Saute until beans are cooked but still slightly al dente. Drain on paper towel if too greasy just before serving.
8. Saute bacon until fat is rendered. Add blanched beans and roasted red pepper. Add salt to taste. Saute until beans are cooked but still slightly al dente. Drain on paper towel if too greasy just before serving.

Comments

  1. it looks delicious,very nice.

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