Look for fish that weigh about 1 pound each. If you don’t have a nonstick pan, you can prevent the fish from sticking by leaving the scales on (though some fish, like mackerel, don’t have scales), by flouring the fish, or by cooking the fish over very high heat for the first minute on both sides. Rapidly moving the sauté pan back and forth on the burner during the first minute of sautéing on each side also prevents sticking.
– Four 1-pound whole round fish such as sea bass, striped bass, mackerel, trout, or red snapper, cleaned and then scaled if desired (see headnote).
– Flour (for fish without scales).
– 3 tablespoons olive oil.
Step 1:Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. If you are using flour, spread it on a plate, dust the fish with the flour, and pat off the excess.
Step 2:In a large nonstick sauté pan, heat the oil over high heat until it just begins to smoke. Slide the fish into the pan and rapidly move the pan back and forth on the burner for 1 minute to help prevent sticking. Then lower the heat, depending on the thickness of the fish. If the fish are very thick, the heat should be between low and medium; for smaller fish, the heat can be higher. Cook the fish on the first side for about 5 minutes per inch of thickness, or until browned. Raise the heat to high, turn the fish with an offset spatula, and sauté for a minute or two. Lower the heat and continue to cook for about 5 minutes per inch of thickness, or until the fish test done. To check for doneness, stick an instant-read thermometer into the back of the fish, in the center between the top fillet and the spine. The temperature should read 130°F. Serve immediately on warmed plates.