The Sweet Sear
I had added some halibut to my last order hoping to try out a recipe for sorrel cream sauce (which I will share, because it was awesome!), and to finish up the mango salsa sitting around. Once I thawed it out, patted it dry and rubbed it lightly with oil, salt and pepper I began thinking of which pan to cook it in.
I have a few good pans that I use for different things. One is a cast iron pan that is practically stick-proof, one is a restaurant-grade Teflon pan and the other is a new stainless saute pan that I received as a present last year. I primarily cook everything in my cast iron pan. It is heavy, so provides even heat, and large enough to accommodate about three full chicken breasts without them touching.
Since I was only cooking one halibut fillet I opted for the stainless saute pan. It too has a thick bottom and transfers heat evenly and is just the right size for one fillet. I splashed a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the pan, brought it up to medium-high heat, tilting the pan from side to side and looked for the tell-tale striations in the oil that says its good and hot, and laid down the fish, skin-side up, away from me so the oil wouldn’t splash up onto my hands.
Now came the hard part—I waited. I resisted the urge to give the pan a shake, to poke at the fish with a spatula, or to bother it at all. I bit my lip and simply waited. For that, is the secret to a perfectly seared fillet, breast, chop or steak. Even potatoes, pan-seared and delicious need time and proper heat to give them a golden brown crust.
But, how long you say? This waiting is killing me. And like any good home chef, you have already created all of your mis en place, chopped your ingredients for side dishes, created your salad, you neatly ordered piles of herbs and onions and whatever you’ll need to complete your meal. You’ve already done all of that so now what, you’re supposed to just wait?
Yep. That’s it. Three, four, five minutes, well at least four and then give that pan a tentative shake. Pick up you spatula and gently pry up the edge and see if it easily releases from the pan. If it does, your done. If not, back off and just breathe in the fragrance of a good sear. Because it’s the patience that cooks it, that will make your guests, or your partner or your kids go ‘wow, that looks great’. And that’s what you’re dieing to hear.
Seriously, searing kills me. I love it and hate it, but when it’s done right it is the most awesome thing. Crisp and crusty yet tender and soft inside. A good medium-high heat will do it. Not too hot or it will blacken and burn, not too cool or it will sweat and soften in its juices, languid and unforgiving. But once you get it, you’ll know, and once you know you’ll never forget.
Then flip, finish, rest and serve. The rest is all glory.
- 1/2 shallot, minced
- 2 cups sorrel, chopped
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- White pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a medium sized sauce pan.
- Add shallots and saute until soft.
- Add sorrel and wilt.
- Add heavy cream and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce until slightly thickened.
- Transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
- Transfer back to a pan and reduce until covers a spoon.
- Remove from heat, mix in lime juice, salt and season to taste with white pepper.
- Serve over fish or chicken.