This dish is simple enough for a weeknight but grand enough for company. I threw it together with some basic ingredients, and it was a hit. The fish cooks completely on the stove, and flounder is done in a flash, so it’s a good option when time is of the essence.
The only time-consuming aspect (a mere 20 minutes) is the caramelizing of the lemons. I ate the whole lemon slices with the fish; the natural sweetness comes out in the cooking process, and I found them delicious. My husband loved the dish, but he discarded the lemon slices. To each his own. The sauce is wonderful over rice or quinoa or used as a dip for crusty bread.
I garnished the fish with a handful of fresh chopped dill, but you could use parsley, basil, chives or nothing at all.
We served these with brown rice pilaf (recipe follows) and steamed broccoli. We skipped dessert. If you have a sweet tooth, the only thing I would avoid in terms of following this meal would be a lemon or citrus flavor profile to eliminate potential monotony.
Caramelized lemons can be used with chicken, fish, tofu or roasted vegetables. They could also top a dessert if you skip the pepper and add a bit of sugar, agave, or honey — pound cake anyone?
The texture and flavor retain the tartness of the lemon, but the caramelizing process delivers a depth and complexity far beyond the burst of freshness we expect.
Flounder with Caramelized Lemons
1 whole lemon, sliced thinly (do not peel, but remove seeds)
2 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon salt,
Generous sprinkle fresh cracked pepper
¼ cup white wine, vegetable broth or water
2 flounder filets
1 half lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh dill, parsley, chives or basil
In a large skillet, melt the butter with the salt and pepper over medium heat and add the lemon slices. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking the lemons, stirring occasionally, until they begin to sweat, then become caramelized and brown at the edges. This will take about 20 minutes.
While the lemons cook, sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and spritz it with half of a lemon. Set aside.
When the lemons are done, add the wine, raise the heat to medium and allow the wine to reduce, about 2 minutes.
Push the lemons to the edges of the pan and gently add the fish. Cook on medium for about 3 minutes per side. When done — the fish will be opaque through the middle and flake easily —move the lemon slices to the top of the fish. Sprinkle them with fresh herbs and serve.
Brown Rice Pilaf
Serves 2 generously
Brown rice contains the whole grain kernel so it has a nuttier flavor and a chewier texture than white rice. It is also better for you, as it contains fiber and is less processed.
That said, if you or your crew dislikes it, just use white rice and follow this recipe with the cooking time and liquid proportions recommended on the package.
1 tablespoon butter, margarine or oil
¾ cup brown rice
¼ cup sliced almonds
½ cup chopped onion
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper
1½ cups broth or water
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the onion, rice, almonds, salt and pepper. When the rice is glossy and the onions are softened, add the liquid.
Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is fully cooked, about 35 minutes. Check periodically to ensure that the liquid hasn’t boiled off before the rice is done; if it dries up too early, add more, ¼ cup at a time, as needed.
Taste the rice for doneness; it should be soft with a hint of firmness — think al dente pasta, as it should have some heft but not crack your teeth.
When done, fluff the rice with a fork and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper if needed, top with parsley and serve.
Keri White is a Philadelphia-based food writer.