Thursday, June 7, 2012

Recipe of the Month: Sole dieppoise

There are many French ports on the English Channel where people used to take ferries across to England. Chief of them is Calais, the closest French town to British soil. There are also many beaches in northern Normandy that were, or still are, popular with people in search of summer and casinos. Deauville springs immediately to mind. Between the two there’s some "other stuff" which includes Etretat, Fécamp and Dieppe.
     Dieppe is the beach closest to Paris, which perhaps accounts for its only notoriety. It’s also the oldest, the place where the king was told to go in 1578 to recover his health.
     But before the French decided to paddle around in the ocean, they fished it. And pirated it. Dieppe was a center for all this, and more. In 1942, it was the site of the first incursion of Allied Forces against Hitler. In Operation Jubilee, 7000 men, mostly Canadians, came to free their ancestors’ native city. The raid failed, but valuable lessons were learned which later spared many lives on D-Day.
     Of all the fish in the English Channel, the most famous isn’t named after a French town; England gets that honor, with Dover sole. But sole don’t stay just on the British side of the water; they’re found off the French coast as well. And the French know how to make this delicate fish really délicieux and totally guest-worthy.
     I’m giving the Long Method, as stolen from one of the gods of French cuisine, Raymond Oliver. But if you need short-cuts, you can use a ready-made fish stock. And to make life easier, have your fishmonger prepare the sole by removing all the skin and filleting and trimming the sole. But have him wrap those trimmings up for you so you can use them in the stock (if you’re making the stock yourself.)
     Then all you have to worry about is the sauce, which is absolutely wonderful, but not if you’re counting calories.

  • 2-lb sole, in fillets
  • ½ lb cooked shrimp
  • 2 T fine dry bread crumbs  
  • 2 carrots, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 T peanut oil
  • 2 T butter
  • trimmings from the sole + shrimp shells
  • 1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme, parsley)
  • 1½ c dry white wine
  • 2½ c water
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 c fish stock
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 c dry white wine
  • 1 c fish stock

If you’re making the stock yourself:
- Shell the shrimp and save the shells.
- Cook the carrots and onion slowly in the hot oil and butter until they’re soft. Add the sole and shrimp trimmings, bouquet garni, wine and water and let simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Strain it through a fine sieve into a bowl so you can use it in the sauce.
Otherwise, just follow the instructions on the ready-made stock package.

For the sauce:
- Melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, stirring constantly.
- Gradually stir in 2 cups of the fish stock until the sauce is thick and smooth. Reduce it slightly and stir in the cream. Reduce some more until it thickens slightly, then beat with a wire whisk until the sauce is very smooth. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Now put it all together:
- Place the sole into a buttered baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and remaining fish stock. Cover with a sheet of generously buttered parchment or brown paper. Cook in a preheated 350°F oven for about 12 minutes.
- Drain off the pan juices and use them to thin the sauce, if necessary. Pour the sauce over the fish and arrange the shrimp around the sole. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and brown quickly under the broiler. Serve very hot.

Accompany with a dry white wine.

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