Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fish with Sage Crumbs

116/365: Fish & 2 veg

Do you keep fresh breadcrumbs in your freezer? I do. When I know we won't finish a loaf of bread before it goes stale or if all that's left is the last two inches of a baguette, I rip it into crumbs and stash it in a freezer bag. You can also use a food processor, whizzing chunks of stale bread to create fine crumbs, but I like the larger pieces that come from doing it by hand, and it's sort of meditative to sit at the table with a piece of bread tearing it into eensy weensy pieces.

I'm almost embarrassed to blog this because it is so simple, but the crumbs you see on top of that fish absolutely transformed our dinner. I could have just cooked the sage in a little oil and used fried sage on top of the fish, and I'm sure it would have been delightful. Instead, inspired by this recipe in the January issue of Bon Appetit, I sauteed fresh bread crumbs with the sage and made sage crumbs, also known as the worlds tiniest croutons.

Oh, and we had some leftover that I used at breakfast the next morning: leftover spinach and beans and a fried egg, topped with the crumbs. Do this. You can thank me later.

The side dishes were pretty straightforward, too. The sweet potatoes (four small ones, probably just over a pound total) were stabbed all over with a fork, cooked in the microwave on high for about 10 minutes until cooked through (flip them over once), and mashed with a tablespoon of butter, some salt and a teaspoon of the chopped fresh sage. The spinach was cooked in just a bit of olive oil over medium high heat until it started to wilt. Then I added a can of black beans, rinsed and drained, and a couple of teaspoons of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles.

Simple Sauteed Fish with Sage Crumbs
I had less than a cup of breadcrumbs in the freezer, but you could certainly scale this up if you were serving more than two people. I used cod, because it was the only thing they had at the fish counter, but it flakes very, very easily, which I find a little frustrating for this sort of preparation. I'd recommend tilapia or haddock, something a little firmer that will hold together when flipped and removed from the pan.

2 white fish filets, such as tilapia or haddock (if filets are very small, use two per person)
a small knob of butter
salt and pepper

about 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
2-3 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Toast the bread crumbs in the toaster oven or under the broiler, watching to make sure they don't burn. You may have to stir them or rotate the pan if your broiler/toaster oven doesn't heat evenly.  Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick* skillet over medium high heat, then add the sage, breadcrumbs, and kosher salt, stirring to coat the crumbs in oil. Saute until golden and crunchy, then remove.

Wipe skillet clean with a towel, or just make sure there are no huge crumbs left. Pat the fish filets dry with a paper towel, then season with salt and pepper. Melt the butter over medium heat, and when the foam subsides, add the fish. Cook 2-3 minutes, then carefully flip the fish over and cook the other side for another 2 minutes; you may have to increase cooking time if you filets are very thick, just cook until the fish is opaque all the way through.

Serve fish sprinkled with sage crumbs.

*I use nonstick when cooking fish, but if you have a pan you trust not to hold your fish hostage, by all means use that.


  1. yup, i probably have alot of breadcrumbs in my freezer, as I always remember to put them there but not to use them :) i used to be a sweet potato microwaver, but will never go back after roasting them in the oven! so much better, they get like candy--no butter needed!

  2. I've never put bread crumbs in my freezer. Good idea!
    The sage breadcrumbs do sound delicious. The whole meal does actually :)

  3. Ah yes, Shannon, the oven makes sweet potatoes amazing, BUT the microwave only takes ten minutes instead of an hour. Sometimes I CAN be swayed by a time saver, but please don't anybody tell Michael Ruhlman.