crispy-skin-branzino-over-raab

Crispy Skin Branzino with Silky Broccoli Raab

I love branzino. It is absolutely my favorite fish. Its flavor is clean and sweet, its flesh moist and firm. I love it roasted whole, stuffed with a rosemary sprig, some lemon slices, and a few garlic cloves; filleted and baked in parchment paper, with a splash of white wine and a handful of fresh herbs; sauteed into a simple tomato sauce for pasta; or, best of all, crisped on both sides in a hot skillet with nothing more than a veil of olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

We eat crispy skin branzino at least once a week, sometimes flaking it into homemade corn tortillas for the best fish tacos imaginable, or simply drizzling it with lemon juice and olive oil on the plate.

Please don’t be intimidated at the thought of crisping branzino skin: it couldn’t be easier. You just need a hot nonstick skillet, a spatula, and 6 minutes to get dinner on the table.

Serves 2

For the branzino:

  • 2 branzino filets, skin on, scales and bones removed, rinsed and blotted dry
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the broccoli raab:

  • 1 large bunch broccoli raab, tough stems removed, washed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • water as needed

For the sauce:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane or the small holes of a box grater

Make the branzino: Brush the branzino filets on both sides with the olive oil, and season on both sides with the salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the broccoli raab: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the broccoli raab and 1 tablespoon of the salt, and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain and shock under cool water to stop the cooking, then gently squeeze dry with your hands. Place the olive oil, garlic, and chili in a medium skillet over medium heat. When the garlic is aromatic, after about 1 minute, add the broccoli raab. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, or until the broccoli raab is very soft and silky, adding a bit of water if needed to keep the broccoli raab moist. Keep warm.

Make the sauce for the branzino:  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside at room temperature until needed.

To serve:  Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and heat for 2 minutes; do not allow the skillet to heat so long  that it begins to smoke though, as nonstick skillets should never get too hot or they let out toxic fumes.

Place the branzino filets in the hot skillet, skin side down, and press with a spatula. Cook 3 minutes, or until the skin is dark and crispy but not burned. Flip and cook the other side for 2 minutes, or until the fish is nearly done, pressing once with a spatula. Flip one more time so the filets are skin side down in the skillet and cook just until they crisp up again and the fish is completely cooked; it will no longer be translucent or pearly, and should be firm to the touch.

Spoon some of the sauce for the fish on the plate, and set the branzino filets on top of the sauce, skin side up; if you place the fish skin side down, the crisp texture will be lost. Pile the broccoli raab next to the fish and serve hot.

crispy-skin-branzino-over-raab