one-pan fish stackRemember vertical food? Where the elements of a dish are stacked to penetrate the third dimension in a big way just because? I was reminded of the fad last night as I put together a quick dinner. This time though, form followed function to build flavors and keep clean-up to a minimum.

Let me back up a bit. I’m trying out the Los Angeles Wild Salmon Minyan, * a fish-buying club that sources from Lummi Island Wild, a sustainable-practices fishery based in Washington. This means I’m constantly looking for different ways to deal with the stash in my freezer, particularly the five pounds of black cod steaks. A little goes a long way with this rich, silky fish, more aptly known as sablefish.

Here’s what I did: I peeled and cut two sweet potatoes into thick slices on the diag and started them sautéing in a single layer in a bit of salted and red-peppered oil in a large skillet. (Try throwing seasonings into the cooking fat so they melt into a flavor infusion when the food hits the pan.)

While the potatoes were going, I smashed a couple cloves of garlic and added them to the pan, cleaned and stemmed a half-pound of spinach, and patted two fish steaks dry (a too-generous 1 pound, but who can argue with leftovers) and seasoned them lightly with salt.

I gave the potatoes a toss, added a bit of seasoned rice vinegar (to cut through the richness of the fish to come) and a few tablespoons water, and covered the pan to help cook the potatoes through, another ten minutes or so. I placed the fish on the potatoes and re-covered the pan to steam the fish and let its flavors percolate down to enrich those already in the pan. It takes about 10 minutes per inch of thickness to cook fish; conveniently, the black cod’s oiliness keeps the fish from drying out if you go a little beyond the perfect moment.

Lastly, I piled the spinach onto the fish and potatoes to wilt. A minute later dinner was ready. I used a spatula to lift the three layers in one move onto a plate, and voila! I had a new kind of vertical food.

I’m thinking this method will work exceptionally well with Yukon or other yellow potatoes, salmon fillets, spinach, and a little white wine. If you try this dish (or tweak it), let me know in the comments how it turned out and email or tweet me a photo!

*To contact the Los Angeles Wild Salmon Minyan, email Laura Seligman at