When did you last fry some good white fish in the pan, with just butter and salt?
If you can get your hands on good, fresh white fish, you don't need any sauces or fancy hassle. Fresh white fish will have a taste similar to butter, especially cod, sole and halibut, and you can really tease that flavor by keeping things super simple.
Instead of complicated ingredients, you need to master a few simple principles to get the best out of this dish.
1: Selecting the fish.
Fish should never smell of fish. Good fish will smell of salt, or the sea. If the fish at the shop already has that fishy smell, move along to the poultry or beef counter, today is not a day for fish.
2: Preparing your fish.
Arrange the fish on a plate. Keep the skin on if the fillets have come with skin. Dab the fish with kitchen paper. Remove as much moisture from the surface as possible, this will make the fish absorb the delicious fats in the pan.
3: Preparing the pan.
Heat a cast iron skillet to top heat with a teaspoon of sunflower oil. When the pan is very hot, add butter, a piece about the size of a tablespoon for every 2 fillets. As soon as the butter has melted and coated the pan, add the fillets, skin side down, and reduce heat by about 40%.
This is the tricky part. If we assume a thickness of 2cm for the fillet, allow 4 minutes on the skin side. Try to move the pan as little as possible during these 4 minutes. Baste the top of the fillets with excess butter from the pan before sliding the spatula under the fish and fliping them over in one quick movement, for another 2-3 minutes on the exposed side. If your fish doesn't have skin, don't worry, you can more or less stick to this procedure anyway.
It's that easy. Season with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and a drizzle of the butter from the pan. Potatoes or rice/risotto are an ideal side, along with greens such as runner beans, broccoli or spinach. No need to re-invent the wheel. The fish will speak clearly and subtly for itself.