Sole Meunière and Finnish fish tales


I never used to eat plaice growing up in Finland, those days it wasn't available. I don't think sole or plaice grow in the Finnish waters. We did get other North Sea fish as well as freshwater fish of course and ate lots of beautiful things like pike-perch (sander), freshwater whitefish, Baltic herring, vendace and salmon of course.

My grandfather used to fish as a hobby, most people did, there are lakes everywhere after all. He used to get mostly common bream, pike and perch.

Dad also fished a bit during the summer holidays which we always spent at our island cabin. I would often row for him when he needed to check the nets, most of the time it was so windy the boat would go wherever it wanted and my gentle, patient dad would show his other, surprisingly feisty side loudly questioning if I knew what was right and what was left (a justified question), shouting for me to back the oars, back the oars while trying to hang on to the net with his fingers that were gradually turning bright red and numb in the cold water. Most of the time there was no fish and every time there was it had messed up the net so much we'd have to get the whole bloody thing up and hang it to dry and then de-tangle.

It almost seemed more hassle than it was worth. But the common bream either smoked or prepared in the wood burning sauna stove tightly wrapped in wet greaseproof paper and newspaper is one of the best fish I have ever eaten.

Dad also had a friend who used to bring us burbot, which he probably thought was a delicacy. I don't think he intentionally wanted to cause distress by burdening us with this evil fish as slimy and disgusting as it's name.

But back to plaice, I cook it often now, it's such an inexpensive and quick week night meal. Sometimes I just season it with salt and lemon pepper and fry, but sometimes I like to do it a la Meunière although the amount of butter is a bit scary.

But then the sole itself is healthy and I usually serve it with boiled or steamed veg and potatoes. Not necessarily just because they are healthy but because I think they go best with the sole. Finnish people think almost anything is best served with boiled potatoes.

Sole Meunière with new potatoes and string beans

Sole Meunière recipe (serves 2)

4 fillets of sole
1/2 cup flour
4 tbsp butter divided (or ideally clarified butter)
juice of a lemon (you can also grate in some of the zest)
2 tbsp chopped parsley (or 2 tbsp capers)

Spread flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Skin the sole fillets by placing them one at a time on a board skin down. Hold on to the tail and run your filleting knife along the skin of the fillet. Cut off the frilly bits on the sides.

Cover the fillets with the flour all over. Melt 2 tbps butter in a frying pan on medium heat and once it starts to turn brown add the fillets on the pan. Fry for maximum one minute on one side, flip over and  fry another minute on the other side. Take the fillets off the pan and place on a heated plate to keep warm.

Wipe any burnt bits of butter off the pan with kitchen towel and melt 2 tbsp (or more if you don't care about the health aspect) of butter on the pan, once it starts to brown add the lemon juice and chopped parsley (or capers), shake the pan to incorporate and pour immediately on the fish fillets. Serve with a salad, vegetables of your choice and potatoes..

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