My last recipe, Adriatic Octopus, Lime Ravioli and Fish Soup, called for fish trimmings, shrimp heads, and a mere couple tablespoons of instant polenta. It left me with a whole meal’s worth of leftover ingredients, and this is precisely what gave birth to today’s dish. While at first I prepared it with no intention of publishing it on this blog, I soon realized that it made for an easy, delicious, and colorful recipe that’s just as Croatian, and would even give me a chance to talk about how to best cook a fish fillet with its skin on in order to achieve crispy skin and tender flesh.
So here’s the deal. There are two things you want to avoid when crisping the skin of a fish fillet in a pan: the fish sticking to the pan, and the skin becoming soggy. To avoid the former, I dredge the skin in flour and sear the fish skin side down in a hot pan. To avoid the latter, I make parallel incisions into the skin in order to let the steam escape, cook the fish skin side nearly the whole time, and press gently on the fish with a spatula during cooking to make sure all the skin is touching the hot surface. By minimizing the time the flesh is directly touching the pan, I also prevent it from getting too hard, which tends to be my main complaint with pan-fried fish.
And this is also why I cook my shrimp sous-vide: in a pan, the shellfish easily becomes unpleasantly tough. Meanwhile, cooking it slightly more than half an hour at a very low temperature makes it incredibly tender. Tossed with sweet paprika, my shrimp gain a vivid red color.
Garnish with some oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and the instant polenta mixed with parmesan, and you’re done! I love seabream, a delicious fish common in the Mediterranean, with tender, delicate flesh. After trying this dish, maybe you won’t even bother preparing the octopus, lime ravioli and fish soup!
Crispy Seabream Fillet with Very Red Shrimp, Polenta and Cherry Tomatoes
Yields 2 servings
Total preparation: 1 hour
Active preparation: 45 minutes
6 shelled shrimp (about 25 g each)
2 g salt
1.2 g sweet paprika
15 g butter
- Toss the shrimp with the salt and paprika in a bowl. Transfer to a sous-vide pouch with the butter, vacuum-seal, and cook in a 56 C / 132 F water bath for 40 minutes.
- Reserve the shrimp in the water bath until serving.
Roasted cherry tomatoes
170 g cherry tomatoes
15 g olive oil
black pepper, ground
- Place the cherry tomatoes in an oven dish. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then bake in a 175 C / 350 F oven for 30 minutes, shaking the dish once around midtime.
- Keep warm until serving.
180 g water
30 g instant polenta
1.2 g salt
20 g butter
15 g parmesan, grated
about 30 g milk (see below)
- Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Whisk in the polenta, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Season with salt, and mix in the butter and parmesan. Keep warm.
- Just before serving, mix in some milk as needed; you want the polenta to have the texture of a spreadable purée.
2 seabream fillets (about 120 g each), skin-on and bones removed
about 15 g flour
light olive oil
roasted cherry tomatoes
- Season both sides of the fillets with salt. Using a very sharp knife, make a few crosswise incisions in the skin, spacing them out by approximately 3 cm. Place the flour on a plate, dip the fillets skin side down, then shake to remove the excess flour, and reserve.
- Heat the oil in a pan over high heat. Sear the fillets skin side down. After about 30 seconds, gently press on the center of each fillet with a spatula to ensure that all the skin touches the hot surface, and shake the pan to make sure the fillets don’t stick. Continue cooking until the skin turns golden brown.
- Transfer to a 175 C / 350 F oven for a couple minutes, until the flesh starts to turn more opaque.
- Take the pan out of the oven, flip the fillets, and reserve for a minute.
- Take the shrimp out of their sous-vide pouch, and arrange them in groups of three on bamboo skewers.
- Divide the polenta between the plates, using the back of a spoon to create a teardrop shape. Garnish with the cherry tomatoes and their jus, then place the fish fillets on top, skin side up. Add a shrimp skewer next to the fish and serve.