Perfectly roasted lemon thyme sole with crisp-tender asparagus and a creamy lemon dijon sauce. This is a no muss, no fuss, fish dish that you will want to make over and over again. Gluten free, paleo, whole 30.
I am always on the prowl for a quick-ish, super delicious fish recipe that I can execute without too much muss and fuss and serve on an average weeknight, making that average weeknight anything but. I absolutely adore any and every type of seafood and could very easily become a pescatarian as long as I could have my random fix of prosciutto from time to time 🙂 Sole holds a special place in my heart as it was Sole Meuniere, a delicious classic french recipe that inspired Julia Child to become a chef. It is one of my favorite stories from her autobiography “My Life in France” (one of my all-time favorite books).
I may have mentioned this once or twice (or 100x) but I live in a pretty tiny space in NYC, by city standards, my kitchen is GINORMOUS (not really), by human standards it's small. I have literally about 4 inches of actual counter space, of which I am grateful for. One of the perks (read: not a perk at all) of my tiny kitchen is that we don't have an exhaust because an exhaust (and a dishwasher) is considered a HUGE luxury. There is a big window in my kitchen that looks out directly onto a gorgeous brick wall. The window helps with air circulation, but it doesn't help much with cooking fumes, smoke, and smells.
A few years ago, I was innocently pan-searing cod in my tiny little, exhaust free kitchen, and produced a gorgeous little dinner. A dinner that we would not soon forget because it lingered. It lingered for about 2 weeks. I remember my great-aunt Mamie had this little portable stove outside on her porch, a portable outdoor fish cooking stove. Fish, she said, should never be cooked inside. Maybe Aunt Mamie was right?
Well, I don't have an outdoor porch and I will NOT stop eating fish. So we adapt, right? I have learned to cook fish in a ton of different ways and now I have a better understanding of which varieties of fish are better suited for say poaching (Hi, Cod!) or roasting (Oh hey there, Sole).
So today I am coming to you with my newest fish triumph. Roasted cod and asparagus with a creamy lemon dijon sauce.
One of the challenges of moving my fish cooking from the stovetop to the oven is that cooking fish in the oven doesn't produce fish with any texture. When you pan sear fish (how it is most frequently prepared in restaurants) it creates this gorgeous crispy exterior. On the other hand, fish releases quite a bit of liquid when it is baked or roasted, especially if you are cooking fish that has been previously frozen. The fish is then basically steam cooking in liquid in the oven. This may produce a tender fish, but it is always tender without any other textural component. I like a little bit of a crisp, a crispy exterior and flaky tender interior. Who doesn't?
Well did you know that you could use asparagus as a sort of cooking rack? Oh asparagus, you are so handy!
If you double stack your asparagus in a stoneware baking dish (as seen here) in opposite directions, it creates almost a grate, or a lifted baking surface. This way the liquid drips to the bottom, under the asparagus (which by the way, the asparagus loves to have flavorful fish drippings to roast in!), and the fish has a “non-soggy” surface to roast on. The result? A perfectly flaky fish with a slightly crispy exterior.
Once you remove the fish from the oven, you are going to want to utilize that flavorful cooking liquid. Fish drippings, lemon zest, fresh thyme, and olive oil. Whisk that liquid gold goodness into melted butter, lemon juice, and dijon mustard to create a crave-able-oh-my-god-I-am-going-to-pour-this-on-everything sauce.That fish cooking liquid is protein rich, which is exactly what you need to thicken and flavor a quick pan sauce.
So this is by far my favorite roasted fish recipe to date, after we photographed it Jordan and I stood over the kitchen counter with forks in hand, and like two little piggies literally devoured the entire dish.
How many portions should one pound of fish serve? I innocently asked Jordan. At least 4 he said. He is dead wrong 😉
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Lemon Thyme Roasted Sole and Asparagus
Lemon Dijon Sauce
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 5 tbsp fish cooking liquid
- generous pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Place asparagus in baking dish, I created two layers of asparagus facing opposite directions. Drizzle with 1.5 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper, 1/2 of the lemon zest, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Bake at 350 for 14 minutes.
- Season sole with salt and pepper on both sides. Lay sole over asparagus (after asparagus has cooked for 14 minutes) in a double layer if fish is very thin (mine was). Place remaining fresh thyme and remaining lemon zest over fish, drizzle with remaining (1/2 tbsp) olive oil.
- Roast in oven for 19 minutes, remove from oven and set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat melt butter and whisk in mustard. Whisk continuously adding lemon juice and 5 tbsp of fish cooking liquid (I simply tilt the baking dish and scoop out the 5 tbsp). Cook for 4 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Season sauce with a pinch of sea salt.
- Pour sauce over fish and serve immediately.
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