Pan-Seared Tilefish with Sautéed Provençal Vegetables

tilefish with Provencal vegetables

One of the best techniques for cooking firm white-fleshed fish is pan-searing. Cooked for exactly the right amount of time, searing locks in moisture and flavor. As the flesh turns opaque and starts to flake, it is complete. Tilefish is a wonderful fish for searing since it's extra-lean. But it doesn't fall apart like some other white fish, and stays exceptionally moist with a mild flavor. But what an unusual name for a fish? I guess it's their vivid blue-green iridescence and gold spots that make them look like painted tile.

For a complementary side that doesn't overpower the subtly flavored tilefish, I chose to prepare a combination of vegetables with the flavors of Provençe. Sweet onion, fennel, red pepper, and tomatoes along with briny capers are all combined to form a saucy accompaniment. The fennel as well as a bit of Pernod add an anise flavor, which is an excellent flavor to pair with any seafood. Not only is this meal exceptionally healthy, but it can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.

Pan-Seared Tilefish with Sautéed Provençal Vegetables

Note: Grouper, halibut, or snapper would make good substitutes if you can't find tilefish.

for the sautéed vegetables:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 medium sweet onion, sliced,
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 ounce capers, rinsed
1/2 cup Pernod or water
2 teaspoons herbes de Provençe
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

for the pan-seared fish:
4 6-ounce tilefish fillet pieces, about 1-inch thick
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil

for the assembly:
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
fennel fronds, for garnish

To cook the vegetables, warm oil in large sauté pan set over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add onion, fennel, and red pepper; cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and Pernod. Add herbs and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on medium-low until vegetables are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.

To prepare the tilefish, remove any pin bones using tweezers. Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Liberally season pieces with salt and pepper. Warm oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Add fish and sear 5 minutes per side. Use a long flexible spatula to handle fish. Skin can be removed before serving.

To assemble, divide sautéed vegetables among plates. Top each plate with a fillet portion of fish. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and garnish with fennel fronds. Yield: 4 servings.