Lemony sauce adds zing to fish, pork and more

I had to nix a meal of frozen fish sticks on a recent grocery-store tour.

The exercise and its “$10 Meal Challenge,” covered in a previous post, requires participants to prepare a meal for four people using every food group for the specified budget — and by purchasing primarily whole foods. That means nothing that comes ready to heat up and eat straight from a box. Definitely no breaded or battered protein.

So when the participant intending to prepare fish sticks asked what she should get instead, I led her over to the meat and seafood section, which has a variety of fresh and frozen items. To keep the cost as low as possible for her protein purchase, we picked a 1-pound package of flounder fillets.

I grew up eating flounder on the South Coast, where it used to be much more plentiful in the local rockfish catch. It’s delicious battered and deep-fried for fish and chips, of course. But the snowy white flesh is versatile and benefits from the least fuss possible. Just a quick saute in butter with a topping of toasted, slivered almonds is lovely. A very light panko breading also makes a crunchy contrast.

Although this recipe calls for only a light dusting in flour, it does feature my favorite sauce for panko-breaded whitefish — or panko-breaded anything, for that matter. Lemon-caper sauce made with lots and lots of Meyer lemons from a friend’s tree earned raves from my husband and sons over the holidays.

Because Meyer lemons are sweeter than regular ones, I doubled the quantity of juice that I usually would add, plus grated a couple tablespoons of zest into the sauce. And boy, did it have a zing! My 2-year-old son licked his plate and demanded more “sour sauce.”   

Best of all, the sauce comes off as an elegant finish, when it couldn’t be simpler to make. I actually prefer to bring the wine, lemon juice, capers and herbs to a gentle simmer before whisking in the butter. Recipe testers for the Detroit Free Press recommend also serving the sauce with shrimp or lobster. I like it with pork schnitzel, like we made on Christmas.

Tribune News Service photo

Whitefish With Lemon-Caper-Wine Sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 pounds firm whitefish fillets

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup white wine

1/3 cup capers, drained

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

In a shallow pie plate, mix the flour, salt and pepper. Coat the fish on both sides with flour mixture. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add fish fillets and cook on both sides until lightly browned. Transfer fish to a platter and cover with foil.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, combine the wine, capers, butter, lemon juice, parsley and thyme. Cook over medium heat until liquid is reduced by half, for about 4 minutes. Spoon sauce over fish and serve with rice pilaf or potatoes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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