Pan-Fried Sole with Caper-Anchovy Salsa
Place the flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs in three separate containers. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper. Dredge the fish first in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Make sure to coat the fish evenly each time and to shake off extra flour or crumb. Place the breaded fish on a plate with a piece of waxed or parchment paper.
Heat a large skillet over medium flame for 2-3 minutes. Add the olive oil and allow the oil to heat for 20-30 seconds. Place the breaded fish carefully into the hot pan. Turn the flame down a bit and allow the fish to cook to a golden brown on one side and turn, about 2 minutes a side. Turn off the flame and remove the fish to a paper towel.
Mix the capers, anchovies, chopped parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, and mayonnaise together in a small bowl. Serve the fish on a plate with a spoon of the salsa and a parsley sprig.
Pan-fried petrale sole
It may be true that in the eyes of God, all soles are equal. But on the California dinner plate, petrale is king.
There are other regional seafood specialties that are equally compelling in their own way and in their own time -- Dungeness crab in dead winter, wild salmon in the spring, fresh sardines, squid, sand dabs and anchovies whenever they’re running.
But although other fish may compare with petrale, none surpass it. Petrale sole is as good as it gets. The flesh is fine-textured and delicately nutty. There’s a tinge of sweetness. And call me a wine geek, but I think there’s a subtle minerality to the flavor.
Now is the time to enjoy petrale. Though it is available year-round, the fish, primarily caught from Monterey north, have moved into shallower waters for spawning and are practically volunteering to be caught. They are at their most plentiful from January through March.
As with any other great ingredient, there is a ladder of preparation you should follow. The first time you fix it, start on the bottom, most basic, rung to best appreciate the flavor. In the case of petrale, brush it with a little butter, broil it and serve it with lemon wedges on the side.
Once you’ve got the taste in your mouth, you can move on to more complicated recipes. The next step I’d recommend is breading it and pan-frying it in butter. Simple as it is, this is a dish to swoon over. I served it last weekend with some tender little turnips that I’d braised with minced shallots. It was incredible with a 2001 Clos du Val Chardonnay, one of the crisper California whites.
Breading food for frying is one of those things that makes some people a little nuts. If you’re doing it right, it’s messy, and if you’re doing it wrong, it’s awful. You wind up with chunks of coating floating in the fat and nothing left sticking to the fish.
The first thing you need to know is that there’s more to breading than bread crumbs. You need something to make the bread crumbs stick. The best glue is an egg wash -- just a whole egg and a little water beaten smooth with a fork.
But it doesn’t matter how much egg wash you use, the crumbs still won’t stick if the surface of the filet is wet. You’ll just wind up with slightly bigger clumps in the pan.
To make sure the surface is good and dry, you need to dredge the fish in flour. That will absorb any surface moisture and ensure a good bond with the egg wash and bread crumbs.
It’s a three-step process: flour, egg wash and bread crumbs. The pros use just one hand for dipping in the flour, egg wash and bread crumbs, leaving the other free (and clean) to press the coating into place and transfer the food to the fryer. That’s a bit too much like rubbing my belly and patting my head at the same time for me, so I just resign myself to having to wash my hands as soon as I’m done.
The other trick is to make sure the fat is hot enough before you add the food. If it’s not, the coating will soak up all the oil and wind up gloppy and unappetizing. It’s easy enough to check: Just touch a corner of the breaded food to the fat. If it’s hot enough, you’ll hear a delicious sizzling sound. If it’s not, wait 20 or 30 seconds more and try again.
Frying in butter makes a difference in flavor, but if your conscience won’t allow it, peanut oil or corn oil will work well too.
There are dishes more complicated than this, but none that taste better. The French culinary lexicon is full of names for sole filets poached and garnished in different ways. Petrale is the best West Coast substitute for any of those.
In fact, though we call petrale a sole, it is not. That is only a term of, shall we say, commercial convenience. In the early days, it was a way of selling an unfamiliar product to a transplanted audience, just as red wine from Modesto used to be called Burgundy and blue cheese from Petaluma Roquefort.
True sole is a family of North Atlantic fish (Solea) that is not found on our coast. Our flatfish are members primarily of the far-flung halibut and flounder clans.
So even though we now have English sole, gray sole, lemon sole, rock sole, yellowfin sole and rex sole (another really good fish, very close to the sand dab), they are all pretenders.
This is a matter of more than ichthyologic interest. Perhaps the grossest example of misnaming is the so-called West Cost Dover sole.
Now there is a true Dover sole and it is quite a fish -- connoisseurs consider it the king of all flatfish. But unless you’re paying more than $20 a pound, that is not the fish you’re buying in West Coast fish markets. West Coast Dover is Microstomus pacificus while the Atlantic is Solea solea (so good they had to name it twice!).
But you’ve got to admit that “Dover sole” is far catchier than its other name, slime sole, even though the latter is probably closer to the truth. This sole, particularly when it is caught in deep water, has a tendency to turn to jelly when cooked.
I know this from personal experience. Many years ago I was hosting a dinner party and thought I’d do a little Dover sole en papillote -- steamed with aromatic vegetables in individual handmade paper sacks to be opened at the table. When my guests cut open those painstakingly prepared bags, the fish had melted into . well, we’ll leave the description to your imagination.
That would never happen with petrale. It may not be a true sole, but it sure knows how to act like one. And in California, that’s what counts.
Pan-fried lemon sole fillets with salsa verde
To make your salsa verde, finely chop the garlic and put in a bowl.
Add the capers, gherkins, anchovies, parsley, basil and mint.
Mix in the mustard and 1 or 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, then 3 good glugs of olive oil, adding more if needed to make a loose mixture.
Balance the flavors with pepper and, if necessary, salt and a little more red wine vinegar.
Put your new potatoes into a large pan of salted, boiling water and cook for 12 minutes with the lid on.
Put the sole fillets into a clean plastic bag and season nicely with salt and pepper and a small handful of flour.
Toss around until all the fillets are well coated.
Just before you start cooking the fish, put your broccoli into a colander, place on top of the potato pan, cover with the lid and steam for 4 minutes or so until cooked.
While the broccoli is steaming, heat a glug of olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan and quickly but carefully put your fillets into them so they will cook at the same time.
Cook for a couple of minutes until beautifully golden, then, starting with the fillet that went in first, turn them all over.
Once you’ve done that, add the butter to color and flavor the fillets.
Cook for no more than another 2 minutes.
When the fillets are golden on both sides, remove the pan from the heat.
Wait for 20 seconds before squeezing in the juice of ½ the lemon and shaking the pan about, otherwise the lemon juice will burn black and ruin the whole thing.
Divide the fillets between your plates with some of the juices from the pan.
Drain the potatoes and divide them and the broccoli between the plates.
Spoon the salsa verde over the fish and veg, put a lemon wedge beside each and tuck in — heaven!
Pan-Fried Sole with Caper-Anchovy Salsa - Recipes
4 Petrale sole fillets (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (split)
3 tablespoons capers, drained, rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 lemon wedges for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 200F and place a platter or plate in the oven to warm. Season the fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Spread flour on a plate and crack the eggs into a large, shallow bowl and beat with a whisk or fork to break up the yolks.
2. In a medium sized non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. While the pan is heating, dredge one fillet in the flour, lightly coating both sides of the fish shake off any excess. Dip the fillet in the beaten egg, coating thoroughly, and put directly in the hot pan. Repeat with remaining fillets.
3. Cook until nicely brown on underside, about 3 minutes. Turn the fillets over and season the browned side with paprika. Cook until done, about 2-4 minutes more, depending on the thickness of the fillets.
4. Remove fish to the warm platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Wipe out the pan with paper towels and turn the heat to low. Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter, capers, parsley and lemon juice. Swirl until butter melts
1. Heat 1½ tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.
2. Season each snapper fillet on both sides. Place fillets in the pan, skin side down. Cook for about three minutes with a weight on top – another pot or pan, perhaps – until skin is golden brown, then gently turn over and cook the other side for about one minute or until just cooked. Turn off the heat and allow fish to rest in the pan.
3. Meanwhile, heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a separate pan and add the onion and some sea salt. Cook until softened on a low heat, about five-eight minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the celery, the rest of the oil, the pine nuts and the currants, then the honey and the red wine vinegar. You should have a sweet-and-sour-tasting salsa.
4. Just before serving, add the dill, chives and a grind of freshly ground pepper to the warm salsa. Spoon a generous amount of the salsa onto each plate with the fish and serve immediately.
Suggestion: I love any fish dish served with mussels. Try this snapper with a serve of my 'mussel and prawn saffron stew'.
Panko-Crusted Sole, a Dinner in 20 Minutes
Even though I work from home, there are still days when I find it inexplicably difficult to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. Of course, you must realize that, having a child who wakes up at negative zero o’clock in the morning, we also have a child who must go to bed quite early in the evening, which means that our reasonable dinner time tends to occur at an hour when the only other people even considering a meal happen to be 80 years-old or, well, babies.
We are not, as you might have guessed, frozen pizza sort of people (and if you are a frozen pizza sort of person, please know that I hold no judgment against you), so when I need to get a meal on the table fast, I tend to look towards foods that are, on a basic level, fast cookers. Sole, delicate as it is, falls wonderfully into this category.
You may think that because this meal appears to use a great deal of dishes that means it is complicated or fussy. Not the case. The majority of the dishes used are plain old dinner plates, which can be rinsed off and dried in seconds flat, or, even easier, simply thrown in the dishwasher. There is no real measuring involved, and no special tools. The fish cooks in one pan, and it cooks for quite literally just a minute on each side until it is done. Cooking frozen fish sticks in an oven takes longer to prepare than this meal, and I guarantee you these sole fillets are about a thousand time better than any frozen fish stick you’ll ever meet.
Most convenient of all, however, is the fact that both kids and adults love this meal. A crispy fillet of panko-crusted sole, slices of avocado, and carrot sticks is a well-appreciated meal for the 5-and-under set. For a more adult-centric presentation, I place the sole fillets on a pile of greens, slice up some tomatoes and avocados, then drizzle on a simple vinaigrette (one part balsamic vinegar to two parts olive oil, whisked with a fork until thick and then seasoned with salt and pepper). We’re sitting at the table in twenty minutes, tops. The food, fresh and crunchy, disappears even faster.
1 pound thin sole fillets
roughly 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
about 2 cups panko bread crumbs
Set three large dinner plates in a row. Put the flour on the first plate, and season the flour with a generous amount of salt and pepper. On the second plate, beat the eggs, and put half of the panko on the third plate.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat (I use a cast iron skillet, but nonstick would also work). Coat the pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil (slightly more if you are using a very big pan) and heat until it is almost shimmering. Take a sole fillet, lightly dip it on both sides in the plate of flour, shake off any excess flour, then wet both sides of the fillet in the beaten egg. Dip both sides of the fillet in the panko, then place the coated filet in the hot pan. The oil should be hot enough that your sole sizzles when it hits the pan, but you should not see any plumes of smoke. Repeat with another fillet. Depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to cook in batches of 2 or 3 fillets at once. Cook each fillet for 1 minute on each side. Sole is very delicate and thin, so it needs to cook for hardly any time at all until it is done. Heat up one tablespoon more oil in between each batch.
If your cooking pan is littered with a lot of panko crumbs, wipe it out with a paper towel in between cooking each batch of fish, before you add more olive oil. When you have used up most of the panko on the third plate, add the remainder of the panko to the plate and proceed (adding all the panko at once can sometimes cause it to clump after repeated fillet dippings).
When each sole fillet is done cooking, place it on a wire rack until you are ready to serve.
Serve sole with sliced vegetables, or on top of a salad, with lemon wedges for squeezing.
The art of making pan-fried anchovy
As always start with a fresh or freshly frozen fish. Anchovies are relatively cheap fish, yet in some urbanized areas difficult to come by. This is unfortunate as this fish is so delicious! Ensure the bellies have been cleaned before working with the fish.
If using, thaw frozen fish and dry the fish on kitchen paper and then lightly salt the fish by sprinkling sea or table salt over the fish. Thereafter coat each fish by turning in starch powder (tapioca, corn, potato) before pan-frying at medium temperature in your preferred oil. I normally use olive oil, but also sunflower and rape seed oil have been used. Turn each fish (I use chop sticks) after a few minutes when golden brown. Remove the fish and let drain on kitchen paper before serving on a pre-heated serving platter. When eating with chop sticks, take the fried fish by the head and eat all but the head. But by all means eat the head as well. You will eat (almost) the entire fish including the minerals from the bones.
Easy Pan Fried Skate Wing Recipe
In Spain we are spoiled with a better choice of fresh fish: sea bream, sea bass, sardines, snapper and excellent seafood such as clams, squid and prawns.
Except for skate. I have never seen fresh skate at the fishmonger’s there. At least not where I live. Skate fish is cleary a fish that lives somewhere else.
I have to admit that if the price is too high in Belgium, then we usually buy another type of cheaper flat fish such as plaice. But whenever I see skate fish at my fishmonger’s at a decent price, come rain or shine: I am making pan fried skate fish at home that day!
Sole Meuniére (Pan fried Dover Sole)
Sole Meuniére is just one of hundreds of spectacular French recipes. I chose it for our International Cuisine meal because it was Julia Child’s Epiphany! Her first meal in Rouen that changed her, and the world because of it. Julia Childs made French cooking accessible to the rest of us.
This is what she said about her first experience eating Sole Meuniére. “I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection.” She later said, “that lunch in Rouen….. It was the most exciting meal of my life.”
My husband concurs and thinks it just might be the best fish he has ever had, I agree! A super simple recipe that is delicious, I would highly recommend you make it!
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Delicious Pan Fried Petrale Sole
We love delicious pan-fried Petrale Sole with white wine. It is straightforward to prepare and scrumptious. Petrale is a mild white fish. It is available fresh in the San Francisco Bay Area year round. You can substitute red snapper or other white flat fish, but Petrale is the best-tasting fish for this recipe. Petrale price ranges from $13 to $17 a pound. Buy it fresh at a good fish market. Make sure it is fresh, not fish smelly.
There are several recipes to pan fry Petrale. We like to cook our Petrale in a non-stick pan with butter and grapeseed oil. We dip the Petrale in an egg batter and then dredge it in Trader Joe’s organic breadcrumbs. Fry it for 3 minutes a side, less if is a small thin piece. Turn the fish over and fry until cooked.
Serve the pan-fried Petrale with homemade tartar sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Oven fried potatoes or grilled sweet potato fries go excellent with pan-fried Petrale Sole. Add a vegetable, and you have a very outstanding healthy meal.
If you have leftovers, a toasted Petrale fish sandwich makes for a fantastic lunch the following day. Toasted sourdough is the best. Throw in some tomatoes and lettuce and it is gourmet.
Frame this photograph for your home or office
Pan-Fried Petrale Sole Recipes
Homemade Tartar Sauce
About a half cup of Best Foods Mayo should be the starting point. Add some lemon juice and dill pickle juice about one tablespoon of each. Mince a dill pickle and some red onion, about one heaping tablespoon each should do. You can also substitute chives for the red onions. Add a smidge of salt and pepper. Optional, add a teaspoon of dry mustard. Stir the mixture thoroughly and taste. Add more lemon, salt, etc as your taste buds dictate. Set the tartar sauce in the refrigerate and let the flavors develop. At least a half hour.
What white wine to serve with Pan-Fried Petrale
- A gentle Sauvignon Blanc – Markham Napa Valley
- A stainless steel Chardonnay – no oak, no butter
- A dry Riesling
Perfect for Pan-Fried Sole
We like these breadcrumbs. Also, try organic breadcrumbs from whole foods. Some folks like to make their own from stale bread. Mix the bread in the food processor. Does anyone try this?