“Dredging fish fillets in finely grated cheese instead of flour is an easy way to add extra flavor and crunch without a bunch of extra ingredients. For this recipe, a seasoned cast iron skillet is essential for forming a crispy, golden crust that does not stick. (Teflon doesn’t work, trust me.) Finish with a simple meunière sauce, or dress it up as I suggest here. This is not a hard dish, but you do need to have everything ready as it comes together really fast.”
Serves 2 as a Main Dish
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 tablespoon capers, drained
6 large spears asparagus, with bottom third of each spear peeled
2 (5- to 6-ounce) flounder or other thin fish fillets (Alternatives are sheepshead, snapper, or trout)
Vegetable oil spray
1⁄2 cup very finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons salted butter 1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon minced parsley
4 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat, picked through
Line a small plate with a paper towel. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small skillet on medium-high heat. Add capers and fry for just a few seconds, until the buds open and they become crispy. Quickly remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Have a large container of ice water ready. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and let boil for 3 minutes until tender-crisp but not limp. Remove the asparagus with tongs (keep water hot for reheating) and transfer to the ice bath to stop cooking. Drain on paper towels.
Place a cast iron skillet large enough to accommodate both fillets on medium heat. Coat the fillets liberally with the vegetable oil spray. Spread the grated cheese on a plate and dredge the skinless (or rounded) side of the fillets in it, coating well.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the hot pan then place the fish, cheese side down, in the hot oil. Do not disturb for about 4 minutes.
Put about a tablespoon of the cheese directly into the skillet as a test at the same time you add the fish. When you can slide a spatula under that fried cheese medallion, you can carefully loosen the fillets and turn them. A golden brown, fried cheese crust that completely coats the fish is what you’re looking for here. (Lower the heat if it’s browning too quickly.) Cook about 2 minutes on the uncoated side.
Using tongs, divide the hot, drained asparagus between 2 heated plates. Place the fish on top of the asparagus spears, spoon the brown butter and crabmeat mixture over the fish, and sprinkle with the fried capers.
Suggested Wine Pairing: Serve with Freemark Abbey Chardonnay (Napa Valley, California), a very clean, balanced, refreshing wine, with pear and apple aromas. An oak- aged chardonnay is always a safe bet with mild white fish and crabmeat.
Reprinted with permission from Chef Tenney Flynn’s cookbook: The Deep End of Flavor: Recipes and Stories from New Orleans’ Premiere Seafood Chef