Thursday, 11 April 2013

Another treat

The fishermen I know are generally traditional in their tastes. And why not, when you have plentiful fresh fish and fantastic raw ingredients like olive oil, tomatoes, peppers, garlic and almonds as well as simple, timeworn recipes. I can well imagine someone having tried any species of fish 'al romescu' being reluctant to try another style of preparation. Why bother when something is already sublime. The thing is that there are many sublime ways that really fresh fish can be prepared (although there are none that can redeem long-dead ones). Olive oil is fitting in that it smacks of vibrancy and light compared with the clogging heaviness of other fats but there are times when nothing can better butter.

So when a damaged, unsaleable sole (solea solea) comes up in the net it's time to break out the butter and the flour for a classic sole meurnière. In her book French Provincial Cooking Elizabeth David praises la Mère Brazier's fine Lyonais bistro for providing what 'I do truly believe to be the most delicious and deliciously cooked sole meurnière I have ever eaten.' and goes on to question what passes for the dish in London restaurants. So despite this being generally considered a simple dish there is some historic pressure to get it right. David also astutely lists the problems of preparing sole meurnière for a dinner party in the domestic kitchen highlighting the size of the fish as one of the drawbacks. Unfortunately this is no longer quite so applicable and most soles these days (at least in the Mediterranean) will fit comfortably into a large frying pan. However, her point about using clarified butter remains valid.

Clarified butter can withstand higher cooking temperatures without burning and is easy to make in small or large quantities. Having prepared the butter the next factor that needs to be exactly right is the quantity of flour. Meurnière means miller's wife, and I find that the image of a county maiden in clogs, beating flour from her apron helps avoid coating the fish too thickly. Season the flour before lightly dusting the sole.

Heat the clarified butter in a frying pan, add the sole and cook on both sides until golden. While the fish is frying make some noisette butter. Take some normal, unsalted butter and melt it in a small pan until light brown and nutty-smelling, remove the pan from the heat and place in cold water to arrest further cooking. Transfer the golden sole from the frying pan to a warm plate, immediately squeezing lemon juice over it. Season again then pour over the noisette butter.  


Jozwi said...

Hi Ben, nice blog and a wonderful boat! I'm doing the model right now, plans to start the real boat in November. Could we get together sometime to chat about details of construction?

Best regards,

Johan. ( Costa Brava )

Ben said...

Hi Johan, which boat are you thinking of building? The light trow Mark 1 or 2, or the Ella skiff? I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Jozwi said...

Hi Ben, did you get the message?