Recipe: Fish with Browned Butter and Capers

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A recent quick trip to Wrightsville Beach was focused on decorating a beach condo with hardly a thought given to food. My client and I envisioned dining at some of the reliable local eateries: Brasserie du Soleil, South Beach Grill or maybe the wondrously exotic Indochine. Once we settled into her condo, though, the view was so spectacular our desire to venture out evaporated.

There was one little problem – with the exception of salt, pepper and companionable bottles of balsamic and olive oil, the cupboard was bare. Since my own kitchen cabinets bulge with so many fancy condiments I can hardly locate a bottle of simple soy sauce, the challenge was refreshing.

Fantasies of supper dancing in our heads, we headed to Motts Channel Seafood, the source of incredibly delicious crabcakes, a mind-boggling assortment of fresh-caught fish and shellfish, as well as a tempting assortment of jarred foods and condiments. We honed in on crabcakes and shrimp, picked up some cocktail sauce and at my client’s experienced recommendation, a package of Vigo Risotto con Broccoli.

A nearby Harris Teeter provided us with butter, white wine, salad greens, a lemon, some perky-looking broccolini for the risotto and even a movie from the convenient Redbox out front.

Back at the house, my hostess boiled the shrimp in beer with no extra flavorings, a technique unknown to the likes of me, accustomed to using plain water infused with obscene amounts of Zatarain’s seasoning and salt.

I obediently followed package directions for the risotto, adding just a dollop of white wine and, five minutes before it finished cooking, a large handful of chopped broccolini. Making risotto from scratch is one of my great pleasures in life, but Vigo’s fast and easy version packs a wallop of flavor with very little effort.

Our supper was such a delight that we decided to repeat the experience the next night using perfectly good leftovers, adding only a catch-of-the-day from Motts. We settled on some gorgeous vermillion snapper fillets and grabbed a jar of capers. As we steamed the remaining broccolini and warmed up the remaining risotto, I made a fish dish I adore and can do blindfolded.

Insatiable, we popped into Motts the next day for more shrimp and crabcakes to take home, and I couldn’t resist the last two packages of Vigo risotto on the shelf.

Fish with Browned Butter and Capers

This classic French bistro-style dish can be made with most white fish – trout, tilapia, snapper, even skate wings. It’s traditionally served with small boiled potatoes with butter and parsley, but we loved it with risotto. The sauce pairs beautifully with steamed broccolini.

2 large fillets of fresh fish
Salt and pepper
Salted butter, about 6 Tbsp.
Half a lemon

Sprinkle both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a nonstick pan. When the butter begins to bubble and brown, add the fish fillets. Cook about 2 minutes on each side, depending on thickness of the fillets, or until cooked through. Immediately place the fish on a plate and cover with foil or another plate to keep warm.

Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of butter to the pan. Stir and cook the butter just a few minutes until it turns medium brown. Immediately add a handful of capers (2 to 3 tablespoons, more if preferred) and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Cook a few seconds more, just to heat the capers. Taste the sauce, adding more juice if you like.

Pour the sauce over the fish and serve immediately with lemon slices.

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Moreton Neal

Moreton Neal is an author and interior designer who lives in Chapel Hill. She is a lifelong foodie, having co-founded LA Residence in 1976. 
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