Sole Ma Femme

Sole exasperates me. I have been unable to teach myself how to handle it without making it crumble. I look for recipes that don't involve cooking on one side and then flipping the filets. I prefer to bake it. But getting it out of the pan can be vexatious. I usually buy lemon sole, because grey sole is exorbitant and I'm not that good a cook.

Here is a recipe from Gourmet's Quick Kitchen that has a slight Mediterranean accent. Olives and orange juice don't sound like natural allies, but here they work well together, assisted by lemon juice, wine, parsley and butter. The sauce is thickened with a touch of cornstarch. As always, the cornstarch is dissolved in water before it's added to the pot. Don't ever add dry cornstarch directly to anything. It calcifies, and there's no saving the inedible mess.

Because I made it for the first time for Kathleen, and I don't much care for descriptive titles, I'm calling it "Sole Ma Femme." In the cookbook, it appears as Sole with Citrus and Olive Sauce.

¶ First do the prep. Combine three tablespoons each of fresh orange juice and fresh lemon juice. Add two tablespoons of dry white wine. Microplane a tablespoonful of orange zest into the mixture along with a half teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper. Finally, toss in ten pitted and slivered Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives.

¶ Dissolve a teaspoon of cornstarch in a tablespoon of water. Chop a tablespoon of cold butter into bits, and keep it chilled. Chop a few sprigs of parsley. Preheat the oven to 350º.

¶ At cooking time, pour the juice-wine mixture into a baking dish that is just large enough to hole two six-ounce filets of sole. Put in the fish, and let it marinate for five minutes. Then, bake it in the oven for about eight minutes, or until just cooked through. Transfer the fish to a warmed plates and pour the liquid into a small saucepan. Stir the dissolved cornstarch into the pan and bring the sauce to a boil. Add the butter when the sauce gets thick; then add the parsley. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve it as fast as you can.

Steamed new potatoes and sautéed green beans are perfect accompaniments. (May 2005)

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