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Related Ingredients

Tasting Notes

It makes perfect sense that Michelle Branch plans on adding this butter-basted branzino a dish in her regular rotation of recipes.

Once you develop the skill for crisping the skin, this restaurant-style preparation is easy to replicate at home. Naturally sweet and nutty, branzino has tight, meaty flakes and a soft texture. The addition of fennel pollen accentuates the freshness of the fish and brings out its toasty layers of flavor.

Tips & Techniques

  1. The perfect temperature. Temper the branzino by removing it from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you prepare it. This will shorten the cooking time and allow it to cook more evenly.
  2. Hot hot heat. The goal here is to crisp the skin without having it stick to the pan. The secret to success? Get your oiled pan as hot as you can before you add the fish, and then lower the heat as the fish cooks.
  3. Pile up. By cooking two fillets together, skin facing outward, we keep the inside of the fish nice and juicy, and the weight of the top fillet helps to press down the bottom fillet as it cooks.


This tool is one we find especially helpful when making this dish.

  1. Fish pliers. This culinary tool closely resembles needle nose pliers, and it’s essential for removing all the pin bones from the branzino fillets.

The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.

  • Baking sheet with rack
  • Medium sauté pan
  • Peltex/fish spatula
  • Tweezers (aka “fingers”), tongs or a second spatula
  • Large spoon
  • Small bowl

  • 2 (3-ounce) skin-on branzino fillets, bones removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Yield: Serves 2

Active Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

  1. Season fillets on the flesh side with a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of fresh pepper. Put fillets together, flesh to flesh, as if to reassemble thewhole fish. Season both skin sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Place a medium skillet over high heat and let the pan get hot. Add oil. Just before the oil starts to smoke, place fish in the pan and press down with a spatula to prevent fillet from curling. Lower heat to medium high and sear fish, without moving it, until the skin is brown and crispy, 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Flip, pressing gently on the fillets with the spatula to prevent curling, and lower heat to medium. Continue cooking until the second side has browned, about 2 minutes more.
  3. While pressing the spatula against the fish, lift the skillet and tilt the oil into a small bowl to clean the skillet. Set skillet and fish back over the heat, add butter and fennel pollen. Using a large spoon, baste the butter over the fish for about 30 seconds.
  4. Transfer fish from skillet to a rack and let it rest for 1 minute. Plate and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Here is a great way to turn this dish into a meal

This preparation works well with any type of smaller fish. For dinner, just add a squeeze of lemon juice and pair it with Oven-Dried Tomatoes and roasted potatoes, or rice and stir fried vegetables. For a light lunch, it can be served with our Shaved Fennel and Arugula Salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.