a tale of two butters

food detective

Categories: Fish and Seafood, Sauces and Such, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Sources, Posted on March 4, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten

Here’s some real news you can sink your teeth into. Melissa Clark, a food reporter from the New York Times, has created a digital series on the essentials of French cuisine. She takes readers through ten quintessential recipes- from mastering a basic omelet to serving up a soufflé with aplomb. She walks you through why should master the recipe, a brief history of the dish, what you’ll need, tips and techniques, along with variations on the recipe.

One recipe that caught my eye was sole meunière. It’s one I always order out, but rarely cook at home. Part of the reason is that I have never had an exhaust fan over my stovetop and I hate when my house smells like fish. The second is I can never get the fillets crisp enough on the outside and flakey enough on the inside without making my house smell like fish.

What I realized from reading Melissa’s recipe and her commentary was that I wasn’t using clarified butter to sauté the fish, then regular unsalted butter for the brown butter sauce. What a difference those two butters make!

Don’t panic about clarifying butter. It sounds complex but it is simply melted, strained butter. It’s got a high cooking point like a light refined oil but with all the delicious flavor of butter.

For the clarified butter- slice two sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter.

Place in a small pan.

Melt the butter over low heat until it bubbles and the foam subsides. Remove from heat, let it cool slightly (but don’t let butter re-solidify).

Skim the foam off the top with a spoon.

Continue until most of the milk solids are removed.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth, clean dish towel, coffee filter or paper towel.

Place the strainer over a heat-safe bowl or container. Leaving the white milk solids at the bottom of the pan, carefully pour or spoon the yellow butter fat through the strainer into the container.

Let cool completely before refrigerating.

The clarified butter will keep for one month covered in the refrigerator.

For the sole meunière- pat dry six 4-ounce skinless boneless sole fillets with paper towel. Season both sides of the dried fish fillets with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees and place a large oven-safe plate or baking sheet inside.

Place ½ cup all-purpose flour in a shallow dish. I place the dish in a dry sink to minimize any mess.

Dredge each fish fillet in flour, shaking off the excess.

Place on a dry piece of paper towel.

Place 2 tablespoons of clarified butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet.

 Heat over medium high heat until it bubbles

Place half of the floured fish fillets in the pan and cook until just done, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Transfer the fillets to the plate or baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Wipe out the skillet. Add 2 more tablespoons clarified butter to skillet and heat until bubbling, then cook remaining fillets. Wipe out the skillet. Arrange the fish on a warm serving platter.

Top each fillet with minced parsley.

In the clean skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter until bubbling and golden, about 1 to 2 minutes.

The milk solids in the butter are what brown.

Spoon the hot butter evenly over the fillets. The parsley will sizzle and create the “sauce”.

Serve immediately with big spritz of lemon. Simply sublime!

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