Food & Drink

Yes, you can cook fish (with this sauce on top)

A simple sauce of butter, garlic and lemon works with almost anything, but especially with fish.
A simple sauce of butter, garlic and lemon works with almost anything, but especially with fish. Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times

Here’s a plan of action that works for dinner on any weeknight: Melt some butter; add some minced garlic, herbs, spices and a squirt of lemon; then pour it over whatever you’re eating. With almost no effort, you'll have a sauce that makes anything taste better.

It works on chicken. It works on steak. It works on beets and turnips.

But of all its possible uses, my favorite 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.

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

As for spices, anything fresh and fragrant is fair game. Curry powder lends a musky note and a little heat. But cumin, coriander or paprika would be lovely. Then finish with a squeeze of lemon for tang.

It will be one of the quickest and most savory dinners imaginable – a combination welcome any night of the week.

Broiled Fish With Lemon Curry Butter

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced

1 1/2 tablespoons minced thyme leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, more as needed

3/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Ground black pepper, to taste

4 (6-ounce) blackfish, flounder or hake fillets

Fresh lemon juice, for serving

Heat the broiler. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in garlic, thyme, curry powder, ginger and 1/4 teaspoon salt; heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon zest.

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