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Flounder with Lemon-Butter Sauce

Elegant and fast, pan-seared flounder is an easy weeknight meal to pull together without a hassle. What sells this dish to my family is its crisp, browned crust. The key to crisp perfection is to make sure the fillets are extra dry by patting them with paper towels and dusting them with just a tiny bit of flour. You may be tempted to pull out your nonstick skillet, but to get that crisp crust you’re better off with a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan. Any white fish fillet works in this recipe, so go with what looks good and is priced best.–Melissa d’Arabian

LC Going Gluten-Free Note

Yes, per this recipe, a dusting of flour does make for a swell crust on fish fillets. But there’s an editor here at LC (ahem) who can attest that flour isn’t essential for a lovely sear. She sizzles up flounder fillets for supper quite frequently, and they never, ever come in contact with a flour coating. It’s just not necessary. There’s no trick to it at all. No gluten, either.

Actually, there is a trick, but it has nothing to do with gluten. The catch is that you’re not going to find fresh flounder for $10 a pound, at least not in Manhattan. This nifty little weeknight number is definitely worth a few extra hard-earned dollars if you do have fresh flounder available, although it also works with any thin, mild, white-fleshed fish. Think wild sea bass, snapper, catfish, tilapia, and so on. Though it may be tempting, don’t substitute thawed frozen fish, as it’ll throw off quite a lot of moisture during cooking, destroying that lovely crisp crust.

Flounder with Lemon-Butter Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 15 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 4- to 6-ounce, 1/2-inch-thick flounder fillets (fresh, not frozen)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon or so all-purpose flour (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 slices
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, chives, or flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  • 1. Pat both sides of the fish fillets dry with paper towels and then season them with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a medium skillet (preferably cast-iron or stainless steel and not nonstick) over medium-high heat until the oil ripples but isn’t smoking, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. While the oil is heating, go ahead and pat both sides of the fillets dry a second time.
  • 2. Sprinkle a little flour, if using, over both sides of the fillets and use your fingers to evenly coat both sides. Add the fillets to the skillet and cook, without moving, for 2 minutes. Slide a thin metal spatula underneath the fillets (making sure to use firm pressure to scrape up any of the golden crust that may be sticking to the bottom) and carefully flip the fillets. If it seems impossible to slip the spatula beneath the fillet and the skillet, wait 30 seconds or so and try again. The fish will release when it’s ready–and only when it’s ready.
  • 3. Place a slice of butter on top of each fillet and stand idly by as it melts and drips off the butter and into the skillet. Cook the fillets until they spring back from light pressure, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the fish to a platter or to 4 plates. Squeeze the lemon juice into the skillet and, with the skillet still over the heat, use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the fresh herbs and spoon the sauce over the fish.
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