As the leaves begin to turn to their autumn colors and the temperatures begin to drop, it seems like it’s time to share one last memory from this past summer as some last warm thoughts. I had a chance to do a bit of fishing this summer, including some fly fishing on the upper Delaware River (didn’t catch anything, but it was tons of fun). I also had a chance to do some deep sea fishing with my dad – something we’ve done together for years.
My dad has a motorboat that he keeps on the bay side of Long Beach Island, NJ, where the water is pretty warm and protected. Together we took it towards the southern end of the island, and had a great day doing drifts along the channel, waiting for “the big one” to bite. We were fishing for fluke (also known as summer flounder – it’s basically the same fish as flounder), where you bait a hook, weight it down, and let it drift along the bottom of the bay. While we didn’t catch anything completely huge, we (and by we, in this case it was my dad both times) pull in a couple of keepers as well as some smaller fluke and other fish. More importantly, it was some great quality time on the boat with dad.
We took the two keepers back into shore with us, and while we could have tried to fillet it ourselves, I’m certain we would have ruined perfectly good fish. Instead, we took them to a local fishmonger who was happy to fillet them the right way for us for just a few bucks. We were left with four beautiful flounder fillets.
What to do with them? There are lots of ways to deliciously prepare flounder, from broiling to the local favorite fried flounder. I thought that I’d do something special with them.
Sidebar and confession: I had just watched Julie & Julia. The movie itself was just ok. But the Julia Child background was really interesting, and the references to the different pieces of French cuisine that she brought to the American masses changed the way we cook and appreciate food. I simply had to do something from Julia.
I decided to do a take on something right from the movie – beurre blanc. What is beurre blanc, you ask? I’m so glad you did – it’s wonderful. It’s butter. Well, specifically, it’s a sauce made where cold butter (and a decent amount of it at that) is whisked into a vinegar or lemon juice reduction so that it emulsifies rather than separates. In this case, I thought that a lemon beurre blanc would be a really tasty accompaniment to the fluke.
So, I mixed up a seasoned flour mixture and dredged the fluke fillets in the mixture. Then, I pan fried the fluke in a little olive oil and butter.
Separately, I whisked together the beurre blanc – it’s important to actively tend to it so the butter really emulsifies into silky, buttery goodness. Finally, plated the fish, poured the sauced over it, and voila! Really, I thought this was wonderful. Beautifully fresh fish with a classic French preparation.
- 1 to 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 8 ounces white wine
- 2 ounces lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
- Combine the shallots, white wine, and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat and reduce to 2 tablespoons, about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the cream to the reduction.
- Once the liquid bubbles, reduce the heat to low. Add the butter, one cube at a time, whisking first on the heat and then off the heat. Continue whisking butter into the reduction until the mixture is fully emulsified and has reached a rich sauce consistency.
- Season with salt and white pepper. Use sauce immediately, or keep it covered until you are ready (don't wait too long!).
- - Fresh squeeze your lemon juice, don't use the stuff in the bottle. You'll thank me.
- - Cube the butter first but put it back in your refrigerator. Make sure to keep it cold until you're ready to use it.
Plating this one, I was really happy – pan fried flounder with lemon beurre blanc gave me sea to table freshness with a little something special in the sauce. Bon appetit!