Lemon sole

Lemon sole fillets in a white wine and tomato sauce on sautéed spinach with button mushrooms and cherry tomatoes

Say hello to Filets de Sole Dugléré aux Epinards et Champignons de Paris. This is another potential exam dish and actually the last fish dish until Intermediate Cuisine. In the last 3 weeks of Basic chicken is coming next, then lamb, then beef. Gimme a woot!

Anyway, the star of today’s show is undoubtedly the fillets but the sauce is killer too. Literally, quite possibly. It starts with a fish liquor called a fumet, made from the bones and skin disgorged in ice, plus onions, leeks and a few other flavour trinkets. This is all simmered, passed through a fine chinois and into the blast chiller to get cold fast. The fillets are gently poached in the fumet and wine but not before buttering the pan and laying down a bed of finely chopped shallots and plum tomatoes. Afterwards the poaching liquor is reduced by 75%, and here’s the killer bit—off the heat, many small cubes of very cold butter are stirred in making the sauce rich and glossy. This technique is called Monter au Beurre.

Lemon sole, aka Microstomus Kitt—sounds like a Roman pornstar—is found in the Eastern Atlantic and North Sea. Apparently lemon sole from our south coast are considered the best. Who knows why it is named so. Who cares. It’s not because it tastes of lemon.

I was pleased with my effort at preparing the lemon sole and filleting. I did it from memory: Scale. Remove the tail, skirt, fins and gills. Now the messy part. Remove the roe. Remove the guts and scrape out the blood line. Wash. Fillet x4. Remove the skin. Trim for presentation. No removing the eyes with scissors today. The head gets chucked. Gimme a flat fish over that trout with its super-soft flesh and pin bones I couldn’t feel.

I managed to cook my fish unevenly. When we do these practicals we’re asked to produce a half-recipe. That means when a sauce is required, there ain’t that much of it. Twice now this has stung me. In this case, the folded fish parcels protruded too far above the fumet. Adding more water earlier doesn’t help because the liquid has to be reduced eventually and even more liquid takes even more time to reduce—time that isn’t available. Chef said try basting the fatter parts of the fish. I’ll try that. Maybe I could’ve used an even smaller pan.

What are the other things going on? Blanched spinach finished in Beurre Noisette. Mushrooms cooked à Blanc—that’s in lemon juice, water and butter with seasoning and covered with a cartouche. All that fuss and they look pretty meh compared to those cherry tomatoes. What baubles! They just pop off the plate. Come to think of it they’d look right at home hanging on a Christmas tree. They were simply blanched, peeled and warmed through in the oven just before plating up.

I managed to under season everything today, including the sauce, which I thought tasted wow. Bugger.