This flounder recipe with lemon butter sauce is easy, healthy, quick, elegant, family-friendly, and dirties just one skillet. That's to say nothing of its crisp brown crust and its tender, flaky perfection.
Elegant and easy, this flounder recipe with lemon butter sauce is, in the words of its creator, an easy weeknight meal to pull together without nary a hassle. We can vouch for that. So can the literally hundreds of readers who click on this recipe weekday afternoons. Although cooking fish is commonly perceived as tricky, this recipe nails it, almost effortlessly creating a crisp browned crust on the exterior and a tender, flaky interior. As the author explains, “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 opt for whatever looks fresh and is priced within your means. This recipe has been updated. Originally published July 26, 2012.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Why You Need To Use Fresh, Not Frozen, Fish In This Recipe
Although this flounder recipe with lemon butter sauce is quick and easy, there is a trick to it. The catch is that in order to make this nifty little weeknight number, you’re going to have to ante up for fresh, not frozen, fish. Though it may be tempting, don’t substitute thawed frozen fish, as it’ll throw off quite a lot of moisture during cooking, destroying the lovely crisp crust that otherwise forms so perfectly on seared fish. Trust us, this recipe is definitely worth a few extra hard-earned dollars. If you don’t have fresh flounder available, simply opt for any thin, mild, white-fleshed fish. Think wild sea bass, snapper, catfish, tilapia…
- Quick Glance
- 15 M
- 15 M
- Serves 4
- Four 4- to 6-ounce, 1/2-inch-thick fresh (not frozen) flounder fillets (or substitute sole, snapper, catfish, tilapia, swai, or any thin white fish)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon or so all-purpose flour or rice 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 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 fish fillet and stand idly by as it melts and drips off the fish into the skillet. Cook the fish until it springs 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.
Gluten-Free Flounder Recipe
- Although a dusting of flour does make for a swell crust on these pan-seared fish fillets, it’s not necessary. There’s an editor here at LC (ahem) who can attest that flour isn’t at all essential for a lovely sear on fish. She sizzles flounder fillets for supper quite frequently in a sturdy stainless steel skillet and they never, ever have a flour coating. It’s just not necessary. If you’re accustomed to the thin coating imparted by flour but are gluten-free, then you can use rice flour in place of all-purpose flour, as noted in the recipe above, and it will work just dandy.
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