My recent entry in Food Fight Friday resulted in a 52% to 47% win for my grilled miso-marinated panfish over David Draper’s most excellent-appearing stuffed venison loin, with 271 votes total. Draper suspected some shenanigans, but I told him: There are no rules in a food fight. Just imagine: “No throwing Tater Tots unless they are slathered in ketchup.” “Peas may only be thrown at people wearing green.” Not!


I promised to share the recipe, which was inspired by a highbrow dish of black cod marinated in miso and sake by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Living in New York City, I am lucky to get fresh-caught fish from my Polish building superintendent Kamil and his son, Michael. Late one evening they brought me nine crappies and one yellow perch from the last ice-fishing trip of the season. After I cleaned the fish, Chef Nobu’s dish came to mind. I had miso paste in the fridge and most of the other ingredients, so I created my own spin on the recipe with a couple of minor substitutions. And it came out great, like fish candy.

2 lb. crappie fillets
1/2 cup yellow miso paste (available in the refrigerated section of many supermarkets, usually near the tofu)
1/2 cup mirin rice wine*
3 Tb. rice vinegar
3 Tb. sugar
1 Tb. minced ginger
About 2 Tb. vegetable oil for cooking

*Mirin is a sweet, slightly viscous rice wine used in Japanese cooking. If you can’t find it, Kikkoman makes a nonalcoholic mirin-style seasoning, or you can substitute white wine, Chinese rice wine, or apple juice.

1. Mix the miso paste, mirin, rice vinegar, sugar, and ginger with a whisk in a glass dish. Add the fillets and marinate for 24 hours, or at least overnight.

2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, use tongs to remove the fillets from the marinade one by one, letting the excess drip away before adding them to the pan in a single layer. Work in batches and add more oil as needed. Cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the fish is nicely caramelized, then gently flip the pieces over with a spatula and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

3. Serve with rice and vegetables on the side.

Serves 4