A garlic butter sauce that is forgiving and goes well with every meat

A simple lemon butter sauce, made by simmering butter with minced garlic, a squirt of lemon plus herbs and spices of your choosing.
A simple lemon butter sauce, made by simmering butter with minced garlic, a squirt of lemon plus herbs and spices of your choosing. PHOTO: NYTIMES
A flounder fillet, topped with the lemon butter sauce, is perfect for a savoury, light weekday dinner that comes together in minutes.
A flounder fillet, topped with the lemon butter sauce, is perfect for a savoury, light weekday dinner that comes together in minutes. PHOTO: NYTIMES

(NYTIMES) - Here’s a plan of action that works for dinner any night of the week: Melt some butter; add in some minced garlic, herbs, spices and a squirt of lemon; then pour it over whatever you have your heart set on eating. With almost no effort, you’ll have a sauce that makes anything taste better.

It works on chicken. It works on steak. It even works on all those beets and turnips you couldn’t quite figure out what to do with.

But of all its possible applications, my favourite is to drizzle it on fish fillets before running them under the broiler.

The reason this sauce goes so well with fish is that they are so different in nature. Fish fillets are mild and lean. A spiced garlic butter sauce is bold and rich. They round each other out in a wonderful way.

  • BROILED FISH WITH LEMON CURRY BUTTER

  • INGREDIENTS

    4 Tbsps unsalted butter

    4 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced

    1 ½ Tbsps minced thyme leaves

    1 ½ tsp curry powder

    1 ½ tsp  grated ginger

    ¼ tsp fine sea salt, more as needed

    ¾ tsp finely grated lemon zest

    Ground black pepper, to taste

    4 (170g) blackfish, flounder or hake fillets

    Fresh lemon juice, for serving

    Dill fronds or fresh parsley, for serving

     
  • METHOD

    1. Heat the broiler. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in garlic, thyme, curry powder, ginger and ¼ teaspoon salt; heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon zest.

    2. Season fish with salt and pepper and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour sauce over fish and broil until fish is flaky and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Top with a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh dill, and serve.

    Yield: 4 servings

    And to drink: 

    The world has become flexible enough to accept red wine with fish, but this recipe definitely calls for a white. Which white depends on the part of the recipe you decide to emphasize. Grated ginger and curry powder are the key variables. Go light on them, and you have a butter, garlic and herb sauce, which will go beautifully with any number of dry whites: Muscadet, Chablis or other white Burgundies, sauvignon blanc, Soave, Etna Bianco or assyrtiko from Santorini. Ramp up the ginger and curry powder, and these wines will still be fine. But even better may be good German rieslings, whether moderately sweet kabinetts and spatleses or dry, steely Rheingaus. Gruner veltliner is another option.

    — ERIC ASIMOV

     

Start by choosing a mild white fish fillet, whatever looks good in the market. I gravitate toward blackfish and hake because they’re sustainable and I can usually find them at my local fish store. Hake is the less expensive of the two, but it also has a less refined texture, with big, coarse flakes. It’s delicious, just as long as you don’t overcook it. Flounder is another dependable option.

Ten minutes before you want to put dinner on the table, preheat the broiler and start making the sauce.

You don’t really even need to follow a recipe for this kind of butter sauce; it’s very forgiving. Melt your butter and stir in as much or as little garlic as you like. (I like a lot.) I also add ginger here for extra intensity, but if you don’t have any, you can leave it out. Then check the refrigerator and unearth the last sprigs of dill or thyme left over from grander and more complicated cooking projects. Chop them up, add some to the sauce, and save the rest for a bright garnish.

As for spices, anything fresh and fragrant in your cabinet is fair game. The curry powder here lends a musky note and a little heat. But cumin, coriander or paprika would also be lovely. Then finish with a squeeze of citrus for tang.

It will be one of the quickest and most savoury dinners imaginable — a combination welcome at the table any night of the week.