Five-Peppercorn Fish Fillets

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.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 4 persons



  1. Step 1

    Put 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.
  2. Step 2

    Melt 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.
  3. Step 3

    Season 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.
  4. Step 4

    When 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.
  5. Step 5

    Return 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.