Grilled Brill Fillets with Anchovy Butter
"I'm an acquired taste. I'm anchovies. If I was potato chips I could go more places."
Tori Amos (2005)
It was only a matter of days ago that I wrote in Baked Brill on the Bone with Cockles and Wild Garlic about being somewhat disinclined toward brill and turbot in part because of the buttery sauces they are so commonly served with. How is it that after such a short time I am putting forward a dish of brill with a butter sauce? The answer is simple: the anchovies. I love them in all incarnations and not least in anchovy butter. So much so, this recipe jumped out of the page when I was flicking through my copy of “Leith’s Fish Bible”.
I was watching an episode from one of Rick Stein‘s more recent series the other day (I think he was in Greece, a country where the grilling of fish is championed), and in it he sat down to enjoy a meal in a simple, traditional restaurant and said to camera that if he were only to have one more meal in his life it would be a plate of grilled fish with salad. I don’t want only more meal just for the moment please, but I know where he’s coming from. Before we get to the final meal, I will be buying and eating more brill. Thankfully, brill are currently available on the market stall and, as at today, the Marine Conservation Society report that brill is not one of the many species currently subject to overfishing and, if sourced and bought responsibly, can be kept on the menu for the time being.
Considering how quick and easy this is to make, it is quite a fine dish.
For each serving you need about 175g of brill fillet. As a guide, a fish of around 900g will yield this quantity of fillets by the time they have been skinned and trimmed. But as with all flat fish, the four fillets will each be of a different size. As an alternative to brill, Dover sole will work extremely well with this treatment for which the fillets would need to come from a whole fish of about 700-750g.
Leith's suggest to serve the fish with quite an assertive salad of bitter radicchio and peppery rocket dressed with a sherry vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette, and the dish is delicious done this way. The sharpness and sweetness of the sherry vinegar and the peppery and bitter leaves complement the salty, creamy anchovy butter ideally. There is a suggestion for how to make this vinaigrette in the Notes but, of course, you can make your own choice of salad and dressing.
The quantities for the anchovy butter will make more than will be needed. It fridges well, so save some for your next grilled steak! Some boiled potatoes would make a great, additional accompaniment to this dish.
Grilled Brill Fillets with Anchovy Butter
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 x 175g brill fillets, skinned
2 anchovy fillets
4-5 tsp (25-30g) softened butter
1 tsp (approx) lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp very finely chopped chives
Lemon wedges to serve
Dressed salad to serve (see Note)
Preheat the grill to its highest setting and lightly grease a baking tray with butter.
To make the anchovy butter, mash the anchovy fillets using a pestle and mortar then add the softened butter. Continue to mash to a smooth paste. Season with ground black pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Lay the brill fillets on the baking sheet with the skinned side facing up and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fold the fillets over so that the wide end covers the narrow end. Grill for about 3 minutes, by which time the fish should be cooked but if not leave them for a further minute or so. Do take care not to allow it to overcook.
Transfer the fish to serving plates and brush them with the anchovy butter to create a glaze, and squeeze a little bit of lemon juice over each fillet. Garnish with the chopped chives and serve with the dressed salad.
Sherry vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette: Put 1 tsp sherry vinegar, ¼ tsp Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt in a bowl and whisk together. Gradually drizzle in extra virgin olive oil (approximately 2 tbsp will be required), whisking all the time so that the dressing emulsifies. Finally add 1 tsp water and season to taste with salt and ground black pepper.
“Leith’s Fish Bible”, C. J. Jackson and Caroline Waldegrave (2005), pp. 262: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leiths-Fish-Bible-C-J-Jackson/dp/0747571023
"Baked Brill on the Bone with Cockles and Wild Garlic": https://www.butestseafoodie.com/post/baked-brill-on-the-bone-with-cockles-and-wild-garlic
"Good Fish Guide", Marine Conservation Society, website accessed 23 March 2020: https://www.mcsuk.org/goodfishguide/search?name=brill