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Sole Chablis

In the highly organized, structured and formal French kitchen, a poissonnier is in charge of all manner of fish and shellfish, and their commis (apprentices) attend to all of the scaling, gutting and portioning of the fish. One of my most vivid memories of working as a poissonnier in France is of preparing the elegant, delicious and beautiful recipe, Petales de Bar or "petals of sea bass." Here I've substituted sole, or flounder, a flat fish that is a relative of the turbot, which we sometimes used in France as well.

The fragrant sauce of fresh herbs and extra-virgin olive oil takes literally seconds to make. Use the time this buys you to carefully arrange the petals on each plate (pictured) for a stunning presentation.

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 pounds lemon sole fillet
  • 6 to 8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp crushed coriander seed
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 2 cups white wine, such as Chablis
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tsp chopped fresh chives
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously butter 2 shallow baking dishes, each large enough to hold half the fish in 6-inch-diameter circles.

    Using a thin-bladed knife, slice the fillets crosswise into thin slices, similar to how you slice smoked salmon, but at a more severe angle, creating a somewhat abrupt cut. Arrange some of the slices in 2 circles approximately 6 inches in diameter in the bottom of each baking dish.

    Continue arranging the slices in concentric circles on top of each other for a petaled effect. Dot each circle with butter and season them with coriander seed, salt and pepper. Pour 1 cup of the wine into each dish.

    Cover with aluminum foil, and bake on 2 oven racks for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the fish turns opaque on the surface.

    Carefully remove the dishes from the oven and remove the foil. Tilt the baking dishes one at a time and pour the cooking juices into a small saucepan. Cover the fish again with the foil and set aside to keep warm. When cooked, the petals of fish will adhere to one another, allowing for an easy transfer form baking dish to plate.

    Set the saucepan over high heat and bring the juices to a boil. Boil for about 3 minutes to concentrate the flavors.

    Using a spatula, transfer the fish circles to the centers of four warmed dinner plates. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the chives, and spoon the sauce over the fish.



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