Five-Peppercorn Fish Fillets
Firm white-fleshed fish fillets, like halibut, striped bass or grouper, take well to this simple, peppery butter sauce. A mix of different peppercorns — black, green, rose, Sichuan and Timut (from Nepal) — crushed to release their flavor and aroma, creates a seasoning that is sweet and spicy, but not "hot." The Sichuan and Timut pepper are quite floral and have a somewhat tongue-numbing quality. Most spice merchants will offer many kinds; feel free to use just one or two, or to refine the mixture to your own taste.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1teaspoon black Tellicherry peppercorns
- 1teaspoon dried whole green peppercorns
- 1teaspoon rose (pink) peppercorns
- 1teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 1teaspoon Timut peppercorns
- 4tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12fresh sage leaves
- 4boneless halibut, sea bass or grouper fillets, about 6 ounces each
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 2tablespoons olive oil
- ½teaspoon lemon zest or lime zest
- 1tablespoon lemon juice or lime juice
- Tender parsley or watercress sprigs, for garnish
Step 1Put all the peppercorns in a small dry skillet over medium heat. Warm them, shaking the pan, until fragrant, a minute or two. Cool, then transfer to a mortar or electric spice mill. Pound with a pestle or pulse in the spice mill, shaking, to obtain a coarse powder. Reserve 1 tablespoon peppercorn mixture and store remainder.
Step 2Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon peppercorn mixture and swirl pan until foamy and beginning to brown. Add sage leaves and a good pinch of salt. Set aside, off the heat.
Step 3Season fish fillets on both sides with salt and dust very lightly with flour. Put a wide cast-iron skillet over high heat and coat bottom with olive oil.
Step 4When oil is hot, lay the fillets in the pan and let them brown gently, turning down heat as necessary. After 2 minutes, flip fish and cook until no longer translucent when probed, about 2 minutes more. Transfer fish to a warm platter or individual plates.
Step 5Return butter sauce to stove over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and add citrus zest and juice. Stir well, then spoon sauce over fish and serve immediately.