Friday, May 4, 2012

Hook, Line and Sinker

I am not aware of any flounder, or its relation sole, making it up the All American Canal to the Coachella Valley.  Maybe that’s because being a flatfish with two eyes on the same side makes navigation difficult.  Or more likely they don’t cotton to our desert clime.  So we are at the mercy of local fishmongers who occasionally truck a limited amount of fish in from Los Angeles.  Apparently flounder is not a desert favorite as none of the local fishmongers had any in stock.  After my sous chef’s patience was tested to the breaking point, we settled on a duo of related flatfish:  petrale sole and dover sole (the Pacific variety—not the real thing from off the coast of Great Britain). 

A piece of Modern Art - mixed media
To make this week’s French Fridays with Dorie challenge even more interesting, my creative sous chef suggested we do a wine tasting between Vouvray and Sancerre to determine which was the best pairing for the light, delicate fish we were about to prepare.  I am always in favor of tweaking the challenge, particularly when it involves quaffing some very good wines.  For the tasting we chose a 2009 Marc Brédif Vouvray and a 2009 Les Tuilières Sancerre.

Painting the Sole with egg - the color of this egg is so bright and sunny

We rarely cook fish at home.  First, we don’t have a great retail source for fresh fish, second, my sous chef is adverse to fish smells in the house and, third, we think restaurants do a better job cooking fish than we do.  So we generally confine our fish consumption to restaurants.  Neither of us has ever knowingly consumed flounder, but we each have enthusiasm for the sole family of flatfish.  My sous chef waxes poetic about the petrale sole served at The Tadich Grill in San Francisco.  And I am a huge fan of the sole dishes prepared by Chef Bernard Deverieux at his restaurant, Cuistot, in Palm Desert.  Chef Bernard is a classically trained French chef, so he knows a thing or two about the preparation of sole. 

Coated both sides of the Sole
Our concerns about preparing this week’s recipe were quickly dispelled.  This is one of the simplest meals I’ve prepared in my life.  Prep time was about 3 minutes and, with only 6 minutes of cooking time, dinner can be on the table in less than 15 minutes making it a perfect weeknight meal.  That is less time than it takes to order and pick up food at the local pizza joint.  And my sous chef discerned no unpleasant fish odors.

Cook 3 minutes per side in butter 
 The fish was delectable - moist, firm and succulent.  I ground slivered almonds in the food processor and left it more grainy than powdery to give the coating more color and texture.  The result was a crispy, visually appealing crust that I thoroughly enjoyed but which my sous chef felt overwhelmed the delicate flavors of the sole.  He likely would feel differently if we had used halibut as a flounder substitute since the addition of flavor would be welcomed.  We did agree this coating would make a great crust on chicken or turkey and would be better if ground more finely when used on fish.  This coating is a winner and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The almond crust is really fragrant with the lemon zest
There was no real winner in the wine tasting competition as both wines were excellent and worked well with either the petrale sole or the dover sole.  Although clearly siblings, there were some differences.  The Vouvray had a slightly floral nose with a  small touch of honey in taste – delicate like the fish.  Whereas, the Sancerre was crisp with a little gravel hint on the palate and utterly wonderful for the richness of the fish.  I recommend you do your own taste test.  There is no reason to limit yourself to one bottle of wine with this fish recipe.

Rhubarb Custard Pie with a little French Vanilla Ice Cream (it is French Friday after all)
To complete our meal, I made a favorite dessert that presented a nice contrast of flavors to the fish that preceded it.  I love rhubarb in many iterations, but an absolute favorite is Rhubarb Custard Pie.  Pre-Culinary Diva, my Southern California born and raised sous chef had never been exposed to a rhubarb, except during his baseball playing days.  Fortunately, he has taken a liking to the sour, tangy, sweetness of the vegetable, which allows me to indulge my rhubarb passion throughout the summer.   

Sous Chef wanted me to describe the size of the chopped rhubarb, this looks about 1/2 inch to me

This recipe originates from my grandmother, and I have adapted it slightly to my taste by including more rhubarb.  

Rhubarb Custard Pie

4 to 4 ½ Cups Rhubarb
1 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
3 Eggs

Preheat oven to 350.

Rough chop the rhubarb into half-inch pieces and place in bowl.  Add sugar, flour, and eggs to bowl with rhubarb and stir until all ingredients are combined.

Line pie plate with pie crust (use ready-made or make your own).  Place rhubarb mixture in pie crust, and top with pie crust.  Poke holes with fork or knife to vent crust while baking.  Place in oven. 

Bake approximately 45 minutes.  After 30 minutes of baking, rub top of pie crust with butter and sprinkle a little sugar on crust.  Bake another 15 minutes and check for doneness.  When pie is done, remove from oven to cool.

To read more French Friday with Dorie experiences, or to buy the book:

It's sort of like a Dump Cake but a Dump Pie - put it all in a bowl and mix well
I vent the bottom crust with a few pricks of a fork before putting the mix in

Top crust on and vented
Flaky, sugary, golden crust combined with the tart Rhubarb makes for a perfect medley


  1. I have learned today from reading other FFWD posts (as I am sure you have too by now) that flounder is an East coast fish, and those of us on the West coast have to settle for sole. I never knew! Yours looks fantastic, and so does that pie!

  2. I agree the crust was really fragrant and I didn't find the nut flavor over powering, even with such a light fish.

  3. I think it's funny that all of us desert-dwellers had similar experiences with finding fish. I liked this dish, but only did the coating on one side, so it seemed less overpowering. I too appreciated the lack of fishy aromas. Your wine choices sound divine!

  4. Oh my, what a delightful post! I'm with you on finding fresh fish or seafoods for these projects, and I'm impressed with your rhubarb custard pie which looks amazing and is making me envious. I'm also impressed that you found such good looking fresh rhubarb...makes me want to go shopping. Have a great weekend and Happy Cinco de Mayo to you too.

  5. Lovely fish & great rhubarb pie. I enjoyed your post!
    I didn't realize flounder was an East Coast thing - I have just been used to always having it around...
    Have a great weekend.

  6. Your sole looks good, but your rhubarb custard pie looks really, really, good!

  7. Your photos are fantastic. Both your Almond Sole Meunière and your Rhubarb Custard Pie look delicious! I would not mind a great big slice of that pie for dessert! Great post!

    Good luck with your new job/position!

    Enjoy your weekend!

  8. I think it's very Dorie-esque to substitute and use what's available where you live. I'm glad you enjoyed this, in spite of your trepidation. If you only had a reliable source for fresh fish, this could make a regular appearance on your table. The rhubarb is just starting to come in where I live, and your grandmother's pie looks quite tempting, and easy. What a great meal! Have a good weekend!

  9. Just lovely, as always, Christy! I love Vouvray! But, I've never tried a Sancerre before, so I'll have to search one out. My husband & I love browsing the aisles at Cost Plus World Market and trying different wines.

    I think you'd like the Swai - it's very mild & won't smell up your house.

    Have a terrific weekend!

  10. Being from NJ I had no trouble finding flounder…it never occurred to me that so many people would have problems finding it. I would think sole would be an excellent substitute! Your dinner looks perfectly delicious and I would love a piece of that pie! Have a great weekend, Christy!

  11. Christy, Sancerre is my favorite, favorite liquid, hands down. That would have been my winner, straight away. I agree this meal was so simple. I'd thought of doing this with other fish, but turkey and chicken - yeah, good idea. I left my almonds a little more rough/not so finely processed and don't know if I liked that. I guess it didn't look like Dorie's. Thank you, thank you for the rhubarb recipe. My son-in-law and I bonded over my strawberry-rhubarb pie. I think I'll pass this one by him - he may make me the Queen.

  12. Such an easy, delicious meal and no lingering fish smell always a plus. I'm going to have to try your rhubarb pie, yum! I've just recently tried rhubarb and it funny how many rhubarb recipes I've come across in the last couple of weeks.

  13. This one was a winner in my house too. So easy and so delicious. I imagine that this preparation would work with any number of different types of fish so always best to stick with what looks freshest. We did sole and it was wonderful.

  14. That crunchy coating on the fish looks delicious. Adding almond is an interesting idea that I've not tried before so thanks for the inspiration. And I do love anything with rhubarb in it - yum!!

  15. I loved this dish, too....but I"m drooling over your rhubarb custard pie....mmmmmm.

  16. Love the pale color of the lemon flesh in your yummy dish!

  17. You had to substitute the fish but you got to choose the wine! It looks perfect.
    I got a few comments about that section in my blog. You have to go down with the scroll on the right after you click on comments. I´m trying to see why that happens. Thanks for your comment anyway!

  18. Everything looks perfect and so delicious. When hubby and I drove thru the Loire
    Valley we stopped in Vouvray for a wine tasting and bought a couple of bottles
    for home. Great tasting wine, we certainly enjoyed it.

  19. Your fish & veggies look like an outstanding meal!

  20. Sure the fish and veg look good but the rhubarb pie is what I'd like to have right now! I haven't had Vouvray but will look for it. We shared a pinot grigio and its crisp, clean taste was nice with the almond crusted fish.

  21. Flounder doesn't make it to my seaside township either. This sure looks delicious! And what meal doesn't appreciate getting capped off with rhubarb? Just my favorite food group. lol. Sure have been eating a ton of it lately. Great meal!

  22. I did not get to this one, as we were traveling- your description makes me want to try it! I too have trepidation cooking fish at home, but you have encouraged me!

  23. This looks amazing!!! Crusting a bland white fish is the perfect way to do up the flavor. I love your recipes and this is one of my favorite. It inspired me to start crusting everything! I have done chicken and tilapia so far. Thank you for being an inspiration to my cooking!


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