Sole Fricassee

Flatfish Fricassee

Oh, I do love a bit of alliteration! Straight away I’m going to own up to changing this title from the original (Sole Fricassee) in order to stress the ease with which it can be used with a number of different fish, including sole, plaice and halibut.

Original receipt
Source: MS3009, Wellcome Library Collection

I also chose this recipe for the way it brazenly ignores all the conventions of fish cooking that we in the 21st century have become so wrapped up in, and suggests a mixture of beef stock and red wine for the cooking liquid. I can picture the cognoscenti of gastronomy clutching their chests and gasping in horror at this unorthodox approach, but, as I have found in so many of these old recipes, this rule-breaking works. The contrast between the strong braise and the delicate fish is a delight.

Flatfish Fricassee

Serves 4

8 sole fillets
50g unsalted butter
250ml strong beef stock – use a stock cube and just half the quantiy of water
250ml red wine,
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped fine
2 shallots – chopped fine
4 lemon slices
2 whole blades of mace
10 cloves
20g butter for the trimmings
parsley & lemon to garnish

  • Trim the edges from the fillets.
  • Cut the fillets into pieces about 10cm long.
  • Roll the trimmings into coils and secure with a wooden cocktail stick.
  • Put the stock, red wine, anchovies, shallots, lemon and spices in a pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Melt the butter in a frying pan and quickly fry the fillet pieces for 15-20 seconds each side.
  • Add the stock mixture to the fish and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Melt the remaining butter in a pan and quickly fry the coils of trimmings for garnishing.
  • Transfer the fish to a warmed serving dish and keep warm.
  • Strain the sauce, return to the pan and taste. Add salt and pepper as liked.
  • Pour the sauce over the fish and garnish with the coiled trimmings, freshly sliced lemon and parsley sprigs.
  • Serve at once.

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