Updated: Oct 8, 2019
from Well Seasoned, exploring cooking & eating with the seasons
by Russell Brown & Jonathan Haley (Head of Zeus)
New potatoes, a delicate sauce & the freshness of British asparagus make this a truly special dish. Make sure that the sauce is well seasoned & has enough acidity to cut through the buttery potatoes. The herbs are really a matter of personal choice but I like the onion note of chives & the fresh punch of flat-leaf parsley.
Brill is perhaps considered inferior to turbot but it cooks in a very similar way & has a lovely delicate texture. Price-wise it is usually a cheaper option than turbot too. Bigger fish will fetch a premium but it is worth a few extra pounds to get a fish that yields thicker fillets. I always choose a bigger fish & freeze any that I don’t need for another day. One trick you can use on the smaller fillets is to fold the thinner, tail end under to create a portion that is a more even thickness. As the proteins set during cooking, the folded piece will stick to the top piece.
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins approx
½ kg new potatoes, washed/scraped (Jersey Royals, Cornish News or other regional variations)
20-30 spears of British asparagus, peeled & washed
For the sauce
70-80g unsalted butter
2 tbsp dry vermouth
50ml white wine
200ml vegetable stock (see recipe below, or use a good quality ready-made stock, powder or cube)
Lemon juice to taste
Maldon sea salt
1 dsp finely chopped chives
1 dsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
For the fish
2 tbsp olive oil
4 x 150g brill fillets, skinned & trimmed (or use turbot or plaice)
Flour for dusting the fish
Maldon sea salt(or any sea salt)
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain & add 25g unsalted butter. Crush the potatoes with a fork, trying not to work to a mash. Adjust the seasoning & add more butter if a little dry. Keep warm.
2. In a small pan, reduce the vermouth & white wine to a syrup. Add the stock & reduce to approximately 50ml. Remove from the heat & gradually whisk in enough cold unsalted butter to thicken slightly. You want to keep moving the pan off & on the heat, enough to allow the butter to melt into the sauce but not enough to boil it. Adjust the seasoning with salt & lemon juice. Rich & tangy is the result you are looking for.
3. Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water until just tender, drain & add a knob of butter. Keep warm.
4. In one large – or two medium – heavy, non-stick frying pans, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Season the flesh side of the brill fillets, dust lightly with flour & shake off any excess. Lay the fillets gently into the pan, flour side down. Cook until golden brown on the flesh side, then season the skin side & add approximately 20g unsalted butter to the pan(s). Baste the fish with the foaming butter, then turn over & cook through. Test by pushing a cocktail stick into the fillet; when it is under-cooked you will feel the fibres tearing as you push the stick in, once done it will slide in smoothly. Remove from the pan immediately & drain on some kitchen paper.
5. Warm the sauce & add the herbs.
6. To serve, mound the potato into the centre of four shallow bowls, place the fish on top of the potato & strew the asparagus spears around. Spoon the sauce around the fish.
Makes approx. 1.5L
Make 24hrs in advance if possible & it will freeze
2 bulbs of fennel
1 stick celery
1 large leek
1 medium onion
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 star anise
Slice & wash all the vegetables & place in a large pan.
Add the parsley, fennel seeds & star anise. Just cover with water, bring to a boil & then simmer for 30 mins. Store with the vegetables in until required, but not if freezing.