I recommend trying the simple “à la meunière” technique for cooking any type of fish filet. It simply means coating the fish in flour and basting it in hot butter in a frying pan during which time the butter turns “noisette” (browned). Fast and easy for any filet, it is also used for whole fish where “sole meuniere” is perhaps the most famous. High quality butter is a must for this recipe. You should know that the more you let the butter brown in your pan, the less buttery and the nuttier it tastes. This is just one reason that preparing the “meuniere” sauce is more of an art than a science. I’ve provided guidelines below, but it is the job of each chef to adjust final flavors before serving!
Although the “meuniere” technique is delicious on its own, adding freshly chopped parsley and acidity with fresh lemon juice and capers makes it even better. Be sure to serve side dishes that will offset the richness of the brown butter – so avoid anything heavy on cream and opt instead for simply prepared vegetables such as steamed carrot purée, green beans with almonds, wilted spinach, asparagus or roasted sweet potatoes, for example. The cooking process of a thin fish filet is a matter of only a few minutes, so have all your accompaniments ready to serve. Enjoy!
Ingredients – for 2 people
2 fish filets*, skinless (about 100-150g per person, depending on menu)
About 2-4 tablespoons of salted butter (room temperature is best)
¼ of a large lemon, juiced (or to taste)
1 heaping tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed (or to taste)
About 3 tablespoons water, or quantity needed
Freshly chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon, chervil, basil…whatever is on hand)
Flour, salt & piment d’Espelette (or ground Cayenne pepper)
* I like sea bream, flounder, sole, Mediterranean black sea bass which are all very thin varieties.
- Mise en place. Bring fish to room temperature for about 15 minutes before cooking. Get capers rinsed and set aside. Clean & chop herbs. Squeeze lemon juice & reserve. Have water in a cup next to stove.
- Prepare fish for cooking. Debone fish filet, and pat dry, if necessary. Place flour in a recipient. Salt and pepper (with piment d’Espelette) both sides of fish. Dredge in flour, removing any excess - do this step at the very last minute. Heat medium-size pan over medium high heat until really warm if not hot. (Use a pan bigger than what will fit your 2 filets because you will need the extra room later on.) Add butter and let it turn brown slightly and get frothy. Be careful with the pan temperature before the butter addition. If too hot, the butter will burn very quickly instead of browning. It is a little bit of an art to get the butter foamy and browning at the same time.When the butter is sufficiently frothy and golden brown, place fish in pan with the skin side up. (But if you can’t tell which side is the skin side, just proceed anyway!). Tilting the pan slightly, baste the top side of the fish with the extra butter in the pan (using a spoon). Add more butter if needed to help the basting process. Un-tilt the pan for about 20 seconds and then baste again (tilted). Continue to do this for about 2 minutes and then carefully flip the fish. Cook second side another 1 minute or as needed. Thin filets do not need more than this to cook, but adjust your cooking time accordingly based on your fish selection.
- Add the zing! Carefully push fish filets to the side of the pan and add lemon juice to the pan. Let sizzle. Add a dash of water to balance the richness and to create a little more sauce. Scrape off any brown bits. Stir to emulsify. Add capers and chopped herbs. Let cook about 30 seconds or so. Add a little piment d’Espelette (Cayenne) if you like. Taste to see if it needs more lemon, herbs, seasoning or water. It should be tangy yet rich in brown butter flavor without being too heavy in butter. Don’t forget that a sauce that tastes tangy on its own may pair perfectly with the fish and your accompaniments, so think of the final flavor profile of the ensemble before adjusting.Turn off heat. Top the fish with the caper butter sauce in the pan. Sprinkle with fleur de sel (optional). Let it sit while you get the side dishes on the plate (previously prepared and ready to serve).
- Serve immediately. Once sides are on each plate, transfer the fish to same plate, and pour any remaining sauce on top. Enjoy! Join me, Diane & Eric at Chateau Ladausse