Anyone who really knows me knows I’m a sucker for fried fish. I mean real good, “she put her foot in it” fried fish. It always reminds me of Africa. There is always a fried fish lady at the markets. Every weekend me and my sister were so excited to have a whole fried fish with hot pepper sauce. So, I wanted to bring that experience to this recipe. Especially if you’ve never had fried fish, this recipe is the perfect way to get your feet wet.
Now, I am not deep frying the fish, we are going to pan sear it. I chose not to deep fry it because I want to keep the recipe Whole30 friendly and very simple. And honestly, as my palate continues to grow, I prefer pan seared and roasted fish. After searing, the fish comes out crispy on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside. But, before we jump into the recipe, here are a few tips to help you achieve perfectly seared fish every time.
Use skin on fillets:
When searing fish, it is very important to use skin-on fish fillets. The skin will keep the fish together, but also keep it tender. It basically acts as a protective layer between the heat and the flesh of the fish. And, who doesn’t love crispy delicious fish skin? I mean I know I’m not alone.
Use cooking oil with a high smoke point:
This is also a very important step when pan searing any type of fish. You want to make sure you are using a fat or cooking oil that has a high smoke point. Which means, it burns at a higher temperature. Fats like ghee and avocado oil are great examples of this. In this case, we are going to be using grass-fed ghee. I love the flavor ghee adds to the fish, but it also allows us to sear the fish on pretty high heat without worrying about it burning.
Do not move the fish:
Now, if you take anything away from this little educational sesh, it’s to NEVER move the fish around. Once you lay that fish fillet into the hot oil, leave it alone! Do not attempt to move the fish for at least 7 minutes (depending on the size of the fillet). Once the fish is ready to be flipped, it will naturally release from the pan.
PAN SEARED SNAPPER W/ RED PEPPER SAUCE
WHOLE30 || PALEO
The quick red pepper sauce is truly what brings this fish dish together. It’s the perfect icing on the cake. It’s spicy, tasty and pairs very well with the crispy and tender fillets. Serve with our Vegan Quinoa Fried Rice or Green Spring Salad.
Snapper fillet pan seared with grass-fed ghee and served with a red pepper sauce.
2 8-ounce skin-on snapper fillets
salt and pepper
4 tbsp. grass-fed ghee
FOR THE SAUCE:
1/2 an onion (diced)
1/2 a large bell pepper (diced)
2 garlic cloves (finely minced)
1/2 a habanero pepper (finely minced)
1 tomato (diced)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tbsp. filtered water
2 tbsp. freshly chopped cilantro leaves
lemon wedges to serve
To begin, remove the fish from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature for about 15 minutes. Then, make two thin skin deep slices on the skin side of each fillet (be sure not to cut through the fish).
Now, pat the skin side of the fillets dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron pan (between 10.2inch – 12inch) over high heat until it starts to smoke and add ghee. Wait until the ghee melts and add the fish to the pan, skin side down. Season the meat side of the fish with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium-high and let the fish cook for 7-10 minutes (you want to allow about 2/3 of the cooking time to occur on the skin side). Gently flip the fish (if the fish is ready to be flipped, it will naturally release from the pan. There may be a little spot or two that is a little stuck to the pan, but that’s normal. However, if the fish is really stuck to the pan after about 8 minutes, leave it and let it continue to cook, then try to flip again after ~3 minutes). Continue to cook the fish on the other side for about 3 minutes. Remove the fish from the pan and set aside.
Now, add diced onion, peppers, garlic, habanero pepper and tomato to the pan. Sauté over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes until the onions are translucent and peppers are tender. Season with salt and pepper then deglaze the pan with water. Stir and continue to sauté until all ingredients are combined. Stir in cilantro, remove from heat and serve the pepper sauce over the fish with lemon wedges.