When I mention the city of Austin, what is the first thing that comes to mind? (By mind, I of course mean mouth.) Barbecue? Brisket? Tacos? Migas? Franklin’s legendarily eternal lines? Me speaking at the amazing Texas Book Festival last month hawking my book? (A great CyberWeek price at Amazon right now BTW:)) You wouldn’t be faulted for thinking any of the above, but I’d like you to know that the answer for me, at least temporarily is this: FLOUNDER MEUNIERE.
Flounder Whoseewhatsee? You sure we talking Austin, TEXAS here?
I know. Odd. But it was a whirlwind visit — I arrived on Saturday at noon and left on Sunday at 4:00 — and there wasn’t a whole lot of time to make much headway on the old Austin bucket list. In fact, the week leading up to my visit had been a hectic one, and I made a promise on my sunrise flight out of NYC: I wasn’t going to make myself crazy with Food Town Anxiety Syndrome. (To the uninitiated, FTAS is a clinical diagnosis for the feeling that kicks in when you travel to a city known for its food scene, and makes you feel like no matter where you are and no matter what you are eating, you should be somewhere else eating something better.) I wasn’t going to give in to it this time. I was going to eat some tacos — maybe not at that insider place I went to last time I was in Austin — but a good-enough spot nearby that allowed me to sit still and actually enjoy The Texas Book Festival as a visitor, not just as a speaker. (Lawrence Wright was speaking, for crying out loud. What migas could compete with that?)
But I think maybe my Food Town Fairy Godmother (yes, also a thing) had something to do with placing me in the direct path of Lucinda Scala Quinn (aka Mad Hungry, peddling her own awesome book at the festival) and her son, sidekick, and concierge extraordinaire Calder. Calder, who’s logged some time editing at Conde Nast Traveler, had tracked down the best places to eat and drink and snack, rented a car, and would pick me up at my hotel at 6:00 sharp to take me to dinner. We would be going to North Loop favorite Foreign and Domestic (who knew? Not me!) and we would be having the flounder. (OK, so he didn’t decide my menu pick exactly.) Meuniere* is quite possibly the most traditional, most no-brainer, most appealing way to prepare a delicate white fish like flounder or sole — you just pan-fry your flour-dredged filets in butter, top with lemon juice, and parsley and capers if you’re feeling it. (They were feeling it.) Why did it take a trip to the landlocked city of Tex-Mex for me to rediscover how much I loved a French classic? I don’t know. But it was a no-brainer to replicate the whole thing at home, a few days later.
*Don’t judge me for not knowing how to type a proper accent grave.
This one goes out to my Austin adoptive parents, Lucinda & Calder. xox
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed
4 large flounder filets (about 1 1/2 pounds total), salted and peppered
3/4 cup flour, salted and peppered for dredging
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock (I’m sure I’m breaking some Meuniere rule here)
juice from one large lemon
handful capers or to taste
chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Dredge each piece of flounder (both sides) in flour. Once butter has melted, turn heat to medium-high and add fish to pan. Cook about 2 minutes a side, adding butter to the pan as you flip, and brown until cooked through. Remove to a deep platter like the one shown above. (If you have to do this in batches, tent the platter with foil.) Add remaining butter to pan, plus wine and lemon juice, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dig up all the brown bits. Add capers. Heat just until sauce thickens slightly (you don’t want it to evaporate, but you don’t need a lot either, so watch closely) and drizzle on top of fish. Garnish with parsley.
Serve with Abby’s chard (we used rainbow chard) and basic roast potatoes.