Thursday, December 4, 2014

Skate Meunière with Lemon, Butter & Caper Sauce

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. 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.”

Julia Child during one of her televised cooking shows

'My Life in France' by Julia Child

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.

Skate Meunière with Lemon, Butter & Caper Sauce
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 pan 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 pan clean and turn the heat down 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, a few curls of lemon zest and serve with immediately with potato purée, sautéed brussels sprouts, arugula salad and a wedge of lemon. Bon appétit!