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, flour does make for a swell crust on fish fillets. But there’s one editor here at LC who can attest to the fact that flour isn’t necessary for a lovely sear, seeing as she sizzles up a flounder fillet for supper quite frequently, and never does it come in contanct with anything glutenous. She can also tell you that you’re not going to find fresh flounder for $10 a pound, at least not in Manhattan. That may seem to sorta discount this cookbook’s title, although this nifty little weeknight number is definitely worth a few extra hard-earned dollars. And though it’s less expensive, don’t substitute 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
Hands-On Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 15 minutes | Serves 4
- 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
- 1. Pat both sides of the fish dry with paper towels and then season with the 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, use a fresh paper towel to 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 or a silicone brush to evenly coat both sides. Add the fillets to the hot oil and cook, without moving, for 2 minutes. Slide a thin 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’s impossible to slip the spatula beneath the fillet, wait 30 seconds 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 into the saucepan. 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 pan and, with the pan still over the heat, use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir in the fresh herbs and spoon the sauce over the fish.
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Flounder with Lemon-Butter Sauce Recipe © 2012 Melissa d'Arabian. Photo © 2012 Ben Fink. All rights reserved.