The bottom-feeding skate is a humble fish with a clean taste and sturdy flesh. This recipe calls for a classic brown-butter sauce, as well as a sprinkling of hazelnuts, which enhances the already nutty flavor of the dish. As always when buying fish, seek out firm flesh with no ammonia-like odor.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes, or just until the nuts give off a pleasant aroma. Remove from the oven, roughly chop, and set aside.
- Prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl and bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the haricots verts and cook, for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender. Strain, then submerge the beans in the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Strain again and set aside in the pot used to cook them.
- Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sauté pan over a low flame. Add the shallots and cook, without browning, for 8 to 10 minutes, until soft. Remove from the heat and add to the reserved haricots verts. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and toss.
- The fish will be cooked in three batches, using a nonstick sauté pan. Place the flour in a shallow bowl. Season the whiter side of the skate fillets with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then dredge that side in the flour, tapping off the excess. Over a high flame, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in the sauté pan until it smokes. Add 2 skate wings to the pan, floured side down, and shake the pan so that the hot oil spreads and surrounds the fish (the oil will pool in the pan). Cook for 1 1/2 minutes, turn, and cook the second side for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and set the cooked fish aside on a cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining fish, adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan each time before adding the next 2 fillets. Begin to reheat the haricots verts and shallots over a low flame.
- When all the fish is cooked, keep the flame high and add the butter to the pan. The butter will melt, foam, then begin to brown. When it does, add the vinegar, reserved toasted hazelnuts, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cool for 1 minute and remove from the heat.
- Serve the skate over the haricots verts and spoon 2 tablespoons of brown butter over each fillet.