The Basics: How to Sauté Fish with Lemon and Capers

From the store to the kitchen to the table: We outline the steps that get you from raw ingredients to your dinner tonight, free of measurements and complicated techniques. It’s a method you’ll remember and whip out whenever you like. It is the most basic way to make the thing you’re making.

  • - a frying pan
  • - a spatula
  • - olive oil
  • - two thin, boneless, skinless fillets of firm white fish (e.g., tilapia, sole, cod, rockfish, snapper)
  • - salt and pepper
  • - dry vermouth
  • - the juice of half a lemon
  • - a heaping spoonful of capers
  • - one pat of butter


  • 1. Rub oil on both sides of the fillets, then season with salt and pepper.

  • 2. Heat the frying pan over medium heat for about four minutes. Once it’s almost smoking, add the fish.

  • 3. Cook without touching the fillets for about three minutes, or until the edges are turning white and the fillets are a little brown on the bottom. Flip and cook the other side for about two minutes. Remove the fish from the pan.

  • 4. Cover the bottom of the pan with a couple of glugs of vermouth. Add the lemon juice and capers. Mix with the spatula, lightly scraping up any bits that might have stuck to the pan.

  • 5. Turn off the heat, swirl in the butter, and season with salt and pepper.

  • 6. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve.

Illustrations by Bill Russell

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