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Get a heavy-bottomed frying pan good and hot. Sprinkle the pepper over one surface only of the cutlets and press well in. Season with salt and dip carefully into the flour on both sides.
Add the oil to the pan and allow to become hazy. Gently lower each cutlet into the oil, pepper-side down, and leave to become crusty – about 4–5 minutes.
Now turn the fish over with a spatula or tongs and cook for a further 5–7 minutes. Once turned, add the butter and allow to froth. Turn the heat down and baste the fish with this buttery lotion as it finishes cooking. Remove the hake and put on a warmed serving dish.
Turn the heat up once more under the pan and, when frothing, pour in the cognac and set alight with a match. Once the flames have subsided, add the stock and stir together. Bring up to the boil and reduce slightly, whisking together until syrupy; you may need to add a further sliver of butter here.
Add the chopped parsley, swirl in, and pour over the hake. Serve with the lemon wedges and sprightly clumps of watercress. Good with plainly boiled new potatoes.
© 2008 Christine McFadden. All rights reserved.