Crisp Sesame Fish Fillets

Sesame seeds make an irresistibly crunchy crust for delicate fish.
TIME 20 minutes
MAKES 4 servings
4 thin fish fillets (about 1½ pounds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or more as needed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or cilantro leaves for garnish
2 limes, quartered, for serving

1 Heat the oven to 200°F. Sprinkle the fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. Put the sesame seeds on a plate and dredge the fillets in the sesame seeds on both sides, pressing them gently into the fish, then shaking off any excess.

2 Put the sesame and vegetable oils in a large skillet over medium high heat. When they’re hot, add 2 of the fillets to the skillet.

3 Adjust the heat as necessary so the fish sizzles but doesn’t burn and cook until the seeds on the bottom are toasted and the top begins to turn opaque, 2 or 3 minutes. Then carefully turn the fillets to cook on the other side, another minute or two.

4 Transfer the finished fillets to an ovenproof plate and put it in the oven to stay warm. If necessary, add more vegetable oil to maintain a thin coating in the bottom and let it heat; then cook the remaining 2 fillets the same way. To serve, garnish the fish with the mint and serve right away with the lime wedges.

  • Crisp Sesame Fish Fillets with Soy Glaze: After remov-ing the fillets from the skillet in Step 4, lower the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil, ¼ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup water, and 2 tablespoons sugar to the skillet. Cook, stirring and scraping all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, until the sugar dissolves, a minute or two. Pour the sauce over the fillets and garnish with cilantro and lime wedges, and ¼ cup chopped scallions if you like.
  • Sesame-Crusted Tuna, Done Rare: Use tuna steaks, which are a good deal thicker than the fillets. But since you want tuna to be very rare, you can follow the recipe and cook the pieces for about the same amount of time, just until the sesame seeds are toasted.
  • Crisp Pistachio-Crusted Fish Fillets: Use olive oil instead of the sesame and vegetable oils; instead of the sesame seeds, grind 1 cup pistachios until fine in a food processor or blender. Dredge the fillets in the pistachios and continue with the recipe. Serve with lemon wedges.

  • Thin fish fillets tend to take up a lot of space, so plan to work in two batches.

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