This Lemon Butter Sauce for fish is outrageous – 3 minutes, 2 ingredients, totally restaurant worthy. The secret is browned butter – called Beurre noisette in French. Learn how to pronounce it so you can loftily tell your family and friends “we’re having French tonight!” (But don’t tell them how simple it is😈)
I need more great Fish recipes on my site. I love fish. Japanese roots – how could I not? I would have been put up for adoption if I hated fish.
Great quality fish is not cheap here in Australia. But worthy of investment because a) it’s good for you; b) a beautiful piece of fish requires very little done to it to make a meal that you’d pay serious $ for at a fancy seafood restaurant; and c) they’re quick to cook.
And so I present to you, your new favourite posh-yet-easy-and-super-quick way with fish: Pan fried until golden then drizzled with a 3 minute Lemon Butter Sauce that you’re going to go nuts over.
This is a very simple yet very restauranty dish. The Lemon Butter Sauce is just made with butter and lemon…. but it’s not “just” butter and lemon. It’s brown butter and lemon. If you’re new to brown butter, this is going to change your world – it’s addictive. Brown butter is everything you love about melted butter, boosted with an incredible nutty, toasty aroma.
The French call it Beurre noisette. The literal translation is “hazelnut butter”, and even though hazelnuts don’t come into the equation at all, we get it. 🙂
It’s as simple as melting butter in a pan then leaving it over heat until the butter turns brown and the smell suddenly changes and becomes nutty – about 3 minutes. The recipe video is helpful if you’re a first timer – especially the pre and post comparison.
While brown butter is simple to make, if it’s on too high a heat, it can go from nutty perfection to burnt in seconds. For this reason, I prefer making the Lemon Butter Sauce in a separate small pan or skillet before cooking the fish in a separate large, non stick skillet over high heat. Just better control. Using the same skillet after frying the fish is higher risk. Plus non stick skillets are typically black so it’s virtually impossible to monitor the colour of the butter, and also the surface area is too large for the amount of sauce made in this recipe.
The sauce stays warm for up to 30 minutes, far more time than the mere minutes it takes to pan fry thin fillets like the Bream pictured in my photos. But even if you get distracted and it solidifies, it’s a 15 second microwave job to bring it back to its original liquid gold state.
Add a squeeze of lemon, and you have the most incredible Lemon Butter Sauce that’s stunning when drizzled over fish. And you don’t need much – this stuff is rich! The recipe makes slightly more than you need because running out of sauce in the middle of dinner is dismal, but in all honesty, my standard serving is 1 tablespoon of Sauce.
It looks a lot browner in the bowl than it does when you drizzle it over the fish. Which is actually perfect – it’s a bright yellow Lemon colour once drizzled. 🙂 If it was just plain melted butter, you wouldn’t have that same intense deep yellow colour that you see on the plate – nor would it pool on the plate like in the photo below.
Try serving it with the Kale and Quinoa Salad I published on Monday. 🙂 Keeps for days in the fridge, my friends! Don’t think of it as a trendy “health food” salad. It’s just a darn tasty filling salad that just happens to star 2 superfoods. Tested and proven! – Nagi x
A Lemon Butter Sauce with Crispy Pan Fried Fish that would be perfectly at home in a posh restaurant, yet is so quick to make at home! Browning the butter gives the sauce a rich, nutty aroma which pairs beautifully with fresh lemon, as well as thickening the sauce and giving it a gorgeous golden colour. Recipe VIDEO below (helpful for pre-post browned butter).
- 60 g / 4 tbsp unsalted butter , cut into pieces
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Salt and finely ground pepper
- 2 x thin white fish fillets (120-150g / 4-5oz each), skinless boneless (I used Bream, Note 1)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp white flour
- 2 tbsp oil (I use canola)
- Lemon wedges
- Finely chopped parsley, optional
Place the butter in a light coloured saucepan or small skillet over medium heat.
Melt butter then leave on the stove, whisking / stirring very now and then. When the butter turns golden brown and it smells nutty - about 3 minutes, remove from stove immediately and pour into small bowl. (Note 2)
Add lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir then taste when it has cooled slightly. Adjust lemon/salt to taste.
Set aside - it will stay pourable for 20 - 30 minutes. See Note 3 for storing.
Pat fish dry using paper towels. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, then flour. Use fingers to spread flour. Turn and repeat. Shake excess flour off well, slapping between hands if necessary.
Heat oil in a non stick skillet over high heat. When the oil is shimmering and there are faint wisps of smoke, add fish. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes until golden and crispy on the edges, then turn and cook the other side for 1 1/2 minutes (cook longer if you have thicker fillets).
Remove immediately onto serving plates. Drizzle each with about 1 tbsp of Sauce (avoid dark specks settled at the bottom of the bowl), garnish with parsley and serve with lemon on the side. Pictured in post with Kale and Quinoa Salad.
1. I like using this sauce for thin fillets because I find you get the best sauce to flesh coverage, and also because thin fillets tend to mean less fish (the sea bream in the photos are only around 120g/4oz each) so you're not having to pour over loads of Sauce (it is quite rich). I also love how the edges of thin fish fillets go nice and crispy!
Having said that though, this sauce is suitable for almost any white fish fillet, but I'd avoid rich, oily fish like salmon and mackerel.
FROZEN FISH is also fine - thaw thoroughly and pat very well with paper towels to remove excess water.
2. BROWNING BUTTER: At first, it will spit a bit (water in butter cooking out), then it will bubble, then it will foam. Little brown bits will start appearing on the base of the pan - THEN you will smell the nuttiness. Smell is the most important sign - when it smells amazing, take it right off!
3. Storing Brown Butter: You'll only need around 1 tbsp of Sauce per serving - it's very rich - but this recipe makes slightly more because it's hard to make a smaller quantity. Use leftovers to jazz up vegetables, mashed potato, or even spread on toast! Refrigerate and use within 1 week, or freeze. To use as Sauce, microwave in 10 second increments.
4. GENERAL NOTE: If you're an experienced cook, you can try your hand at making the sauce in the pan after cooking the fish. First wipe it clean (yes you lose pan flavour, but it's nice to have a "clean" looking sauce), lower heat then make the sauce once the pan has cooled. I personally find it easier to make the Sauce first in a smaller pan - easier to control colour change. Also I like using my black non stick pan for the fish and you can't see the colour of the butter in dark coloured pans.
5. Nutrition per serving, assuming 1 tbsp of Sauce (it's a rich sauce, you don't need much) and assuming 1/2 tbsp of oil is discarded after cooking the fish (my estimation by scraping out remaining oil). The fish weight seems small but it looks larger on the plate because I used a thin fillet (bream).
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
LIFE OF DOZER
3 hours ago: as usual, refusing to get out of the car knowing what lies ahead – a hose down.