Rockfish Meunière on Whole Wheat Pasta

A fillet prepared à la meunière and served on pasta is one of our favorites when cooking with firm, delicately flavored white fish. We modify the traditional recipe, which means “miller’s wife” (descriptive of the flour this method employs) by using olive oil instead of butter and by skipping the lemon and butter finishing sauce.

Our three favorite methods for preparing fish, in no particular order, are as follows: sashimi – raw, thinly sliced fish dipped in a soy sauce and wasabi mixture; shioyaki – fish salted and then broiled or grilled; and à la meunière – dredged in seasoned flour and pan fried. These three preparation methods are the epitome of simplicity, emphasizing the freshness of the fish rather than sauces or seasonings, and can be accomplished in even the most bare-bones of kitchens. While they won’t adequately cover every species of fish (some species do well only when poached, and a few others shine best when deep fried), they are good methods to have in one’s repertoire.

A collar – the meat just behind the fish’s head, including the pectoral and ventral fins – is a good candidate for meunière. Pictured is the collar from a two to three pound yelloweye rockfish.

Each cooking method works particularly well with certain species of fish. Chinook salmon, for example, is a superb fish for shioyaki and a much underutilized sashimi fish. Yellowtail and other tuna are excellent served as sashimi. When you think of meunière, think of fish that is white, firm but not dense, and mildly or even delicately flavored. Some of the best candidates are sole, flounder, greenling and Pacific rockfish in the genus Sebastes such as black rockfish, copper rockfish, yelloweye and so forth.

Rockfish à la Meunière on Pasta for Two

Ingredients:

  • two fish fillets 1/4 to 1/2 pounds each (110 to 230 grams), cleaned, skin removed, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels. Do not use a thick cut of fish for this. The fillets should be fairly thin – less than an inch thick (2.5 cm) as opposed to using part of a fillet from a large fish.
  • 1/3 cup semolina flour. (All-purpose or other flour is fine, but semolina will result in a very pleasant additional crunch and fuller texture to the finished fillet.)
  • 1/2 tablespoon herbs de Provence, plus 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence, separate
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 3 to 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • olive oil for frying
  • enough pasta for two servings
Directions:
  1. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain off water, return to pot and toss with about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence. Set aside. (Or do this simultaneously while cooking the fish.)
  2. In a plastic Ziplock bag, or in a mixing bowl or on a plate, mix together the flour, 1/2 tablespoons herbs de Provence, salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Thoroughly dredge the fillets in the flour mixture and set aside on a plate or cutting board. Left over flour can be used as a bed for the fillets.
  4. In a frying pan large enough to hold both fillets, add olive oil to about 1/8 inch depth. Heat over medium to medium-low until oil causes a pinch of flour to sizzle.
  5. Position fillets in pan making sure they do not touch. Cook uncovered over medium to medium-low heat for about 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Carefully turn the fillets over. Add garlic slices and pine nuts and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes. The first few times you cook fish this way, you may have to break the fillets apart to check for doneness as it will vary depending on thickness, type of fish and cooking temperature.
  7. Place pasta on dinner plates. Remove fillets from pan and place on pasta. Use a slotted spoon to separate garlic and pine nuts from oil and sprinkle on fish and pasta.
  8. Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

We served the pasta and fillet with a side of fish collars, also prepared à la meunière, and brussels sprouts sliced in half, seasoned with salt and pepper, and pan roasted. This is a simple yet elegant meal that can be prepared in a galley, on a camp stove, or in virtually any kitchen.

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