Excuse the awkward food styling here. Or more accurately, the complete lack of food styling. But I just couldn't wait to dig into this heady fish curry. The aromas were so savory, so rich and herbal and spicy that as soon as the two tender fillets were cooked through, I slid the mess from the pan onto a plate, asked Olga to snap a picture (hurry hurry!) and dug in. No time for food styling or fussing, not while my stomach was growling so audibly and persistently (though Olga did ask that next time I at least let her put the food on the plate in a more considered way and I agree that would have made for a prettier picture though not necessarily as good a lunch).
Anyway, this recipe is just the thing to make while you can still get good tomatoes and peppers from the market. The curry brown butter sauce just sort of happens as the butter browns while the fish cooks, and it mingles with the curry powder you've sprinkled on the fillets to season them. It sounds a lot fancier than it really is.
I love cooking with blackfish since it's local and thick and meaty and very sweet. But any fish would work well, even stronger ones such as mackerel and swordfish. What you want to do is brown the fish a little to flavor the sauce, then remove the fillets from the pan so they don't overcook while the sauce reduces. Then add the fish back in at the last minute to allow the flavors to come together. Just adjust the cooking time depending upon the type of thickness of your fillets (or steaks, those work too).
I used a Cubanelle pepper because I had one but any bell pepper is fine. Green ones add a grassy freshness; red or orange or yellow lend a sweeter taste. If you want some heat, throw in a sliced up jalapeno or serrano if you can take it.
Finally a word about the Madras curry powder: the best ones will have a spicy chili bite with some real tongue-zapping heat. If you only have regular curry powder, perk it up with a pinch of cayenne. And definitely make sure your spices are fresh and aromatic. Stale spices = flat boring curry. And who wants that?
End of Summer Blackfish with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Madras Curry Brown Butter
2 blackfish filets around 7 ounces each
Coarse sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 Cubanelle or bell pepper of any color, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest of 1/2 lime
1 large tomato, grated
Cilantro, roughly chopped
Basil leaves, torn
Juice of 1/2 lime
1. Wash and pat dry the filets, making sure to pull out any pin bones. Season the fish with salt and pepper and generously sprinkle the curry powder. Allow the fish to “cure” for at least 30 minutes.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat until the solids have settled at the bottom and bubbling has subsided. Add fish, skin side up, to pan and cook without moving it around until it is well browned, about 3 minutes; flip fish and continue to cook until it is just opaque. You will notice that the butter will have turned dark brown and nutty-smelling. You want this.
3. Transfer fish to a plate and set aside. If some of the fish skin sticks to the pan, ignore it, it will eventually meld into the sauce and add flavor. Add the wine to the pan and deglaze, scraping the brown bits and any skin that has stuck to the bottom.
4. Add the peppers to the skillet and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly browned and softer. If the peppers look a little dry, add a splash of olive oil to them while sauteing. Stir in the garlic and lime zest, cook for 30 seconds until fragrant, and add the grated tomato. Cook until most of the tomato liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes on high heat. Place the fish back into the skillet, cover, and cookuntil the fish is heated and cooked through. Serve fish sprinkles with cilantro and basil, and drizzles with lime juice.