“Do you want skate again or John Dory?” I asked Kyle. “John what? Isn’t that a restaurant?” was his response. My choice was obvious.
No, we weren’t eating at April Bloomfield’s oyster bar of the same name at the Ace Hotel. Instead, I was cooking John Dory since (a) I’ve never made it before, (b) it was $14.99/lb – about $10 for the 2 of us (about the same price as the skate), and (c) Kyle clearly had never had it before, which needed to be remedied.
Also known as St. Peter’s fish, it has a mild flavor and seems to be popular in the UK, at least with Jamie Oliver. But you’ll rarely see John Dory on US menus – it’s not even an option at John Dory Oyster Bar. Except for fish & chips or battered with a lemon-butter sauce, you won’t find many recipes even on the web. I figured that since the fillets were thickly cut, it could withstand pan-searing without the breading. And I was right. Since I had some heirloom cherry tomatoes and asparagus that needed to be used, I made a tomato and leek topping that wouldn’t completely overpower the fish and a side of roasted asparagus. Sweet potatoes that had seen better days were turned into a savory mash with five spice powder, sour cream and scallions. They plated well, even if it wasn’t the best compliment to the fish. I’d rather use what ingredients are on hand than let them go to waste and do a little experimenting. Next time I might try it with a more traditional lemon butter sauce. Hopefully this quick recipe and the pics will inspire you to give this fish a try – if you’re lucky enough to find it.
Pan-Seared John Dory with Tomatoes and Leeks
6 tbps of butter
7-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup of chopped leeks
A few sprigs of parsley, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup of dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
3/4 lb of John Dory (1 large piece or 2 small fillets)
1 tbsp of lemon oil
Freshly ground black pepper
In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt 2 tbsps of butter. Add tomatoes and leeks. Sprinkle with a bit of parsley, salt and pepper.
Add wine. Cook for 1 minute. Then add the lemon juice and cook for 3 more minutes. Lower the temperature to medium low and continue to cook, while stirring occasionally while you prepare the fish.
Lightly oil the fish and sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley on both sides.
In a large saute pan or cast iron pan, melt 3 tbsps of butter over medium heat. When bubbly, add the fish, meat side down.
Brown for 3 minutes. Using a spatula, make sure the fish isn’t sticking and then flip to brown skin side.
Add rest of butter, if needed. Cook another 3 minutes. Then remove from heat. (Yes, this takes a mere 6 minutes!)
Cut the fish in half if not using 2 small fillets. Plate with the tomato-leek mixture.
Serve with a side of veggies and a starch.
To drink: the dry white wine you cook with should be acceptable. Or try a Dogfish Head I.P.A. to go with the fish theme.