Sauteed Black Sea Bass With Capers and Herb-Butter Sauce

Black Sea Bass with Capers and Herb-Butter Sauce in large pan
Photo: Ryan Liebe
Prep Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
25 mins

Letting a fillet sizzle in a pan with butter, capers, and fresh herbs is one highly civilized way to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. Go with sea bass, trout, or snapper-or any flaky white fish with a thin skin that will get super-crispy in the pan.


  • 4 skin-on black-sea-bass fillets (about 1 ¼ pounds total)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Instant flour, such as Wondra, for sprinkling

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • cup dry vermouth

  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • ¼ cup lightly packed chopped fresh tender herbs, such as parsley, dill, tarragon, and chives


  1. Pat fillets dry; slash skin side of each crosswise in 2-inch intervals. Season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with flour to evenly coat, shaking off excess.

  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. When oil shimmers and wisps of smoke rise from skillet, add fish in a single layer, skin-sides down. Reduce heat to medium; cook, undisturbed,until skin is crisp and flesh is opaque halfway up sides and almost cooked through, 5 to 7minutes, depending on thickness.

  3. Flip and continue cooking until just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to plates, skin-sides up. Add vermouth to skillet; boil until mostly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add capers and butter; cook until butter simmers and sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in herbs. Return fish to skillet, skin-side up; spoon butter sauce over top. Serve immediately.

Cook's Notes

Slashing the skin a few times (at two-inch intervals), means that when you lay the fish skin-side down in the hot pan, it won't curl up and will cook evenly.

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