Friday, January 18, 2013

Skate Meunière with Lemon, Brown Butter & Capers

Meunière has long been a classic of French cuisine, proof that elegance can be found in the simplicity of a few fine ingredients: flour, butter, lemons, capers, salt, pepper, parsley. Those common ingredients and 10 minutes of your time are all it takes to create this simple, and simply divine dish. Sole Meunière, from which this dish was inspired, was undoubtedly immortalized by Julia Child who recalled her first meal in Rouen of oysters and sole meunière as a culinary revelation and life changing moment. 

Julia Child during one of her televised cooking shows

As she described in her Memoir, 'My Life in France', it was “perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley… I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter… It was a morsel of perfection… It was the most exciting meal of my life.”

Considered a trash fish for a long time, skate has grown in popularity in recent years. An unusual looking flat kite-shaped fish with large wings, skate are related to rays — which they closely resemble — and are cartilaginous, which means that their skeletons are made of cartilage rather than bone. The meat is lean, delicate and sweet due to their diet of clams and mussels. Skate is also enormously versatile, as it can be poached, steamed, pan-fried, broiled and grilled, however only the wings are edible — but when plated, makes for a beautiful and exotic presentation.

At $4.99/lb, skate is a relatively expensive fish - I bought 2 wings for just over $5!

The skate is seasoned with salt and pepper then dredged in flour, shaking off the excess

A tablespoon of butter and olive oil is warmed in a non-stick skillet, into which the skate is sautéed for about 3 minutes per side until golden and cooked through

Pan-seared skate resting in the oven while making the Sauce Meunière

Skate Meunière is a simple dish. Indeed, it simply means fish prepared in the style of the miller’s wife — that is, dredged in flour. The fish is then pan fried and sauced with a classic combination of pungent capers, fresh squeezed lemon juice, mellow browned butter and bright accents of fresh parsley. A deceptively quick and elegant dish, easily prepared in under fifteen minutes, I love pairing Skate Meunière with a pillow of creamy mashed Yukon gold potatoes, sautéed brussels sprouts and a peppery arugula salad, garnished with olive oil, Maldon sea salt and a grind of fresh cracked black pepper. As Julia said, "You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients." She also said "with enough butter, anything is good!" 

The simplicity of a few fine ingredients: capers, caper berries, 
fresh lemon, parsley and butter

Capers and caper berries

Juice and zest of one lemon

Two tablespoons of butter cooked until it becomes nutty brown, 
known as beurre noisette

Capers, parsley and the juice and zest of a lemon are added to make the Sauce Meunière

Potato purée with cream, butter and nutmeg, seasoned with salt and white pepper

Brussels sprouts halved...

...then sautéed in a little butter to brown them

Arugula finished with a little olive oil, Maldon salt and fresh ground black pepper

Skate Meunière with Butter, Lemon and Capers
Serves 2

2 skate wings, about 1/2 pound each
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
6 caper berries, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp finely chopped flat parsley, plus more for garnish
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200ºF. Pat the skate wings dry, season with salt and pepper then dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.

Warm a tablespoon of oil and butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to mix as the butter melts. When the oil is hot and starts to shimmer, place the skate fillets in the pan and sauté for about 3 minutes per side, until golden and cooked through. Using a large spatula, remove the wings from the pan and place on a foil lined baking tray, and place in the oven to keep warm.

Wipe the skillet clean and turn the heat to medium. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan, and cook while stirring, until the butter browns to a nutty colour (beurre noisette), about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest, capers, caper berries, parsley and continue to cook, stirring constantly until they're warmed through. Turn off the heat, transfer the skate to warmed dinner plates and spoon the sauce over the fillets. Garnish with some fresh parsley and serve with immediately with potato purée, sautéed brussels sprouts, arugula salad and a wedge of lemon. Bon appétit!

SUGGESTED WINE PAIRING: A medium-bodied flavourful white wine, such as a Gavi from Italy or a Pinot Blanc from Alsace in France.

Potato Purée
Serves 2

1 lb Yukon gold or russet potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/8 cup warm milk
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Peel and wash the potatoes and cut into evenly sized pieces. Cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Strain and return to the warm empty pan and set over a gentle heat to dry off any moisture. Remove from the heat and carefully pass all the potatoes through a ricer back into the pan and add the butter. Over a gentle heat stir the butter into the potato until smooth. Add the warm milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and beat well until it's nice and creamy.

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