On the patio in the waning afternoon light, still with a residue of summer warmth yet hints of fall, it is the perfect time for a weekend fish fry. Tonight, Filet of Sole with Brown Butter & Lemon accompanied by the final taste of sweet summer with Creamed Corn Salad. A Bijouxs Basics, a little jewel from home.
It just does not get any more basic and simple than a fish fry, and in Bijouxs’ month of Basics series, this classic, easy-does-it method serves up great taste every time. This represents our family-style everyday version of a fish fry (technically a fish sauté but as a children we called it a fry) sans any batters or special treatment, those were reserved for a special catch – here it’s an everyday delicate white fish, filet of sole, cooked up quick and simple.
This easy sauté method is suitable for any mild white fish filet or fresh trout, but filet of sole is a nice choice, small, thin filets that cook quickly and evenly. After rinsing and drying the fish, dredge each filet lightly in a light coating of flour that has been seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, dust off the excess flour and you are ready to fry.
This method requires sautéing the fish in batches, removing each batch to stay warm, then creating a final brown butter sauce made by deglazing the pan with fresh lemon juice, of course including with the crispy brown bits, then lavishly pouring the buttery goodness over the fish and finishing with an additional squeeze of lemon. Now this is not at all unlike classic sole meunière, however in my family the pan did not get emptied and wiped after each or any batch, hence the development of a very brown butter sauce that included all the crunchy bits, a humble Bijouxs Basics.
The trick, if I can really say there is a trick to simply frying fish in butter, is to keep an even moderate hot temperature throughout the cooking process, especially if you are cooking the fish in multiple batches. The butter and the brown bits remain in the pan as you cook each batch and will darken with each batch, so begin slow, and at the end you will have perfectly browned butter and bits by the last batch. If the butter and bits begin to get too dark, remove the bits and most of butter from the pan, lower the heat and add a bit more butter and you will be right back on track.
An important Bijoixs kitchen Basics is to secure a great pan for sautéing and cooking delicate foods, such as eggs, omelets and fish, a task best left to a pan with a smooth cooking surface verses the rough surface of cast iron skillet. A favorite little jewel in the kitchen is my de Buyer Carbon Steel Mineral Fry Pan, which gets hot-hot because it is 99% iron, a smooth cooking surface that also develops a non-stick character, just like a cast iron pan after seasoning and repeated use. This pan was purchased to stand in for a very pricy stainless sauté pan that just would not release food well while cooking. The de Buyer Mineral pan checks in at a great price and after following the (strange) pre-seasoning ritual the pan was non-stick from day one. As with many kitchen basics, this pan becomes humble, well worn with wear, but also as with any great classic you are in good company adopting a piece of kitchen equipment that will serve you well for many years.
I many times take to doing the entire fish fry on the grill outside, moving the pan around on the grill, adjusting the flame as I go to achieve an even cooking temperature, creating a campfire-like cooking event while dining on the patio. A large platter of fish, with extra lemons halves, bowls of chopped parsley, a big bowl of summer “creamed” corn salad and all the serving essentials line the outdoor sideboard, just find a seat and dig in.
Filet of Sole with Brown Butter and Lemon – everyday Bijouxs Basics, everyday beauty right here in our kitchen.