I serve fish at least once a week. I grew up eating fish ( specifically filet of sole or flounder) for dinner on Fridays in accordance to the Catholic Church. But even after Pope Paul VI loosened the fasting rules in 1966, my mom just couldn’t break the habit. We still had fish (or other meatless meals) on Fridays, and I believe this is a habit she still prefers to follow. I’m certainly not here to talk about religion, but I just want to mention that this “fish on Fridays” ritual was to symbolize penance. It was to be some sort of sacrifice. And sacrifice it was, because my mom made filet of sole or filet of flounder every Friday in exactly the same way……week after week! Don’t get me wrong, it was good ( in a baking dish, drizzled with oil…..coated in Italian-style breadcrumbs…..dot with butter…cover and bake for 25 minutes). But every Friday? We were ecstatic when the fishmonger didn’t come, and we had eggs in purgatory (eggs in gravy) or pizza instead. ( I will share those recipes in weeks to come).
So, yes, I began my cooking life serving filet of sole or flounder in the manner of my mother. We didn’t have it every Friday night, but if I made fish, this was it. Eventually a recipe for shrimp scampi from my mom’s friend Anne was in the repertoire, but it wasn’t until 1986 that I truly knew just how delicious these fish filets could be. This elegant dish of filet of sole with snow peas was served at a dinner party at the home of our dear friends. I was impressed that my friend, with 2 small children, was able to make such a scrumptious and elegant meal…..and who knew filet of sole could be so delicious! A few days later, I was sitting in her kitchen while our children played, and I asked for the recipe. She handed me one of her “recipe index cards” (we all had these cards then, and recipes were neatly filed in our “recipe boxes”). I couldn’t believe how easy it looked, and in fact, it is a very easy dish to make.
Since then, I have learned of many different ways to make filet of sole or flounder, but this is truly my favorite. It’s easy enough for any day of the week, yet fussy enough for a dinner party. Just one confession ……..every so often, I place my sole or flounder in a oiled pan and coat it in breadcrumbs, dot with butter and bake. Ahh, memories!
RECIPE: serves 4
4 6 ounce sole or flounder filets
white pepper to taste
salt to taste
1/4 to 1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces, plus 6 whole snow peas for garnish
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
4 TBSP fresh lemon juice
2 tsp freshly grated lemon rind (I like a little more than this)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1. Combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette, using a whisk.
2. Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish.
3. Season the filets with salt and pepper and arrange in the pan.
4. Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 7-9 minutes.
5. While baking, blanch the snow peas, drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.
6. Once the filets are cooked, top with the snow peas, red onion and vinaigrette. Serve as your prefer, in a platter or in the baking dish.