Browned Butter and Lemon Sauce

Browned butter and lemon sauce is one of the great sauces for fish. Cook the butter until it goes brown with a nutty aroma, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a few capers and it’s done in almost no time at all.  

Browned butter and lemon sauce is one of the great sauces for fish. Cook the butter until it goes brown with a nutty aroma, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a few capers and it’s done in almost no time at all.  

The French name for this sauce is Beurre Meuniere. That’s quite a fancy name for a sauce that’s made in minutes with simple ingredients.

Even the story behind it is simple. Meuniere means miller’s wife (not so lofty after all).

A miller’s wife would obviously have access to plenty of flour.

Since mills were built on streams, the miller’s wife would often cook fish (coating it with flour first), for dinner. This is the sauce she’d make to accompany it.

Browned butter and lemon sauce is one of the great sauces for fish. Cook the butter until it goes brown with a nutty aroma, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a few capers and it’s done in almost no time at all.     Browned butter and lemon sauce is one of the great sauces for fish. Cook the butter until it goes brown with a nutty aroma, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a few capers and it’s done in almost no time at all.  

Thin pieces of white fish are ideal as they cook quickly. I use a 20 cm stainless steel pan to first cook my fish, and then to make the sauce. This is so I can scrape up any bits of fish left behind in the pan and use them in the sauce. I’ve said it before, “Why waste flavour?”  You could use separate pans if you wish.

A light coloured pan makes it far easier to see when the butter starts to change colour. Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled!

Browned butter and lemon sauce is one of the great sauces for fish. Cook the butter until it goes brown with a nutty aroma, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a few capers and it’s done in almost no time at all.    Browned butter and lemon sauce is one of the great sauces for fish. Cook the butter until it goes brown with a nutty aroma, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a few capers and it’s done in almost no time at all.    Browned butter and lemon sauce is one of the great sauces for fish. Cook the butter until it goes brown with a nutty aroma, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a few capers and it’s done in almost no time at all.  

Browned butter and lemon sauce is one of the great sauces for fish. Cook the butter until it goes brown with a nutty aroma, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a few capers and it’s done in almost no time at all.     Browned butter and lemon sauce is one of the great sauces for fish. Cook the butter until it goes brown with a nutty aroma, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a few capers and it’s done in almost no time at all.  

The science behind what happens as butter melts is really quite interesting – then again l am a teacher so l would find it interesting! So for all the teachers (and non teachers out there) this is what happens.

Butter is composed of water, milk solids and butter fat. When butter melts and bubbles, the water in the butter begins to evaporate.Browned butter and lemon sauce is one of the great sauces for fish. Cook the butter until it goes brown with a nutty aroma, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a few capers and it’s done in almost no time at all.  

After the water evaporates, the remaining milk begins to toast, transforming into little brown flecks and giving off a nutty scent. This is browned butter.

My biggest tip is not to use high heat! Keep the heat at medium level or you’ll end up with burnt butter sauce in a matter of seconds.

Put on your best French accent and impress the family tonight!

Danielle

Preparation Time: 5 mins     Cooking Time: 10 mins     Servings: 2

Ingredients

The Sauce (This sauce is rich so you only need a spoonful per fish. The recipe makes more than you need. It’s hard to make just a tiny amount of the sauce. A smallish pan is ideal as it has less surface area. I used a 20 cm / 8″ pan).

  • 50 g / 2 oz unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of  lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • salt & pepper

Pan-Fried Fish

  • 2 portions of thin white fish fillets (note 1)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • salt & finely ground pepper
  • walnut size knob of butter for cooking

Instructions

Pan-Fried Fish

  1. Pat dry the fish using paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss the fish in flour, shake off any excess flour.
  2. Heat a small pan over medium heat. Place knob of butter in the pan. Once melted, add the fish and cook 2 minutes  per side (cooking time will depend on the thickness of your fillets).
  3. Remove and keep warm while making the sauce.

The Sauce (note 2)

  1. Over medium heat, add the butter to the same pan you cooked the fish. Stir as it melts. It will begin to foam (1 – 1 1/2 min). You could use separate pan if you wish.
  2. Stir until the bubbles begin to subside. The butter will begin to turn golden and the milk in the butter will begin to toast. Those are the little brown flecks that begin to appear. At this stage, there should be a nutty aroma. Then add the chopped parsley and the lemon juice. Stir, scraping up any bits of fish in the pan –  that’s flavour! (1 – 1 1/2min)
  3. Stir well to bring the sauce together. Add the capers and season with salt and pepper (30 secs).
  4. Pour sauce over the fish and serve with salad or vegetables on the side (you can pour some sauce on the veggies too).

Notes

  1. Any white fleshed fish goes well with this sauce. I used Ocean Perch. Bream and John Dory are other alternatives.
  2. If the butter begins to splatter and spit, the stove is probably on too high. Quickly remove the pan from the stove, turn down the heat and allow to cool for a minute or so before continuing.