Weeknights with Jenny

Table Wear

March 22, 2010 • 9 Comments

- Jenny

On the first Tuesday of the month, my family has a tradition of dressing up for dinner. I’m not talking about combing your hair here. Dresses with crinoline come out. My six-year-old puts on lipstick. At least one person teeters around dangerously in inappropriate shoes.

The food doesn’t always live up to First Tuesdays, as they are known –- it might be pizza, it might be salmon again -- oh, but the fancy clothes come out of the closets in spades.

Once in a while during the week –- Tuesday, Sunday, whatever -– I feel I need to trot out the culinary equivalent of a vintage Helmut Lang dress. I like to let my kids understand what life might hold for them if they scrape their pennies. One day, far off in the future, when they are living in a dorm, they may realize that their mother is actually brilliant and that bagels for dinner actually suck and yes, there is a sense of pride that comes from cleaning off a nightstand, and get themselves to a proper restaurant.

Usually this sort of fancy-pants meal means extra effort. But in the case of the divine Poached Sole with Blood Orange Beurre Blanc it came to me almost as easily as roast chicken.

Let me start off by telling you that as per usual, I made this dish with John Dory, a white fish I prefer because my fishmonger always has it, and it is inexpensive, cooks quickly and has a low-mercury threat (as in fairness does sole). Do what suits you.

Our recipe writer, Furey and the Feast, who is the only person I’ve seen yet who proclaims in her food52 profile that 20 guests are the ideal number for a dinner party (20! Girl, I hope you have a big dishwasher and a late bedtime!), tells you to use chicken or vegetable stock as the base for this sauce. I went with vegetable, because I had some on hand from last week’s soup blog, but I suggest you do the same as chicken might be a little heavy considering all the other goodies in this recipe.

You are doing a basic poaching sauce, with shallots and peppercorns tossed in, which will later become a savory, citrusy reduction thickened with good old fashioned butter, poured like a baby blanket over that thin little sliver of fish. While it is all reducing, whip up something nice –- I made a fennel, blood orange salad -– that will be the prom date this sole deserves on your table.

I set out cloth napkins. I lit a candle or two. I insisted that some form of manners be used. I am happy to report to you that there was ooohing. I think maybe ahhing too, but I couldn’t hear over the 6-year-old telling the 11-year-old that she should pull her shirt up, which resulted in some sort of screaming and leaving the table. But only for like five minutes.

A few notes: strain out the peppercorns as you plate this, or you will have to do so at the table, which is sort of annoying. Watch that fish as it cooks -– you don’t want to overcook it! I had only a pound and a half of fish, and while I used half the butter the recipe called for, I would up the proportions of all the liquid by a bit if you’re using the full two pounds. Play something romantic. Speak of La Grenouille.

Poached Sole with Blood Orange Beurre Blanc

Serves 3 to 4

  • 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup blood orange juice (or orange juice)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 7-8 black peppercorns
  • 2 pounds sole fillets
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine stock, wine, blood orange and lemon juices, shallots and peppercorns in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-low heat. (Use a smallish sauté pan so that poaching liquid covers most of the fish). Bring to a simmer.

2. With a spatula, lower fillets into poaching liquid and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until fish is opaque and flaky. Remove from liquid and set aside. Keep warm.

3. Increase heat to high and reduce poaching liquid to 1/4 cup, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, one tablespoon at a time. Season to taste. Ladle sauce over fish and garnish with lemon or blood orange slices. Serve immediately.

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Comments (9)

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about 4 years ago littleclove

Jenny,
What a great idea. I love the fact that you honor "dinner" this way. I'm a single mom with a 9year old daughter. Yes, it would be easy to just throw anything together for us and eat in front of the TV every night. You know, being just the two of us and all.

But, the IS our family. The two of us. And I think it's important to have real meals. I make roast chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh veggies, homemade pastas, etc. We sit down at the table and eat as a family (yes, just the two of us) every night.

I love the idea of having a fancy dinner party that we dress up for. Makes the meal even more special. We have friends join us a lot, so it would be fun to actally send an invite to this, too.

Thanks for the great idea!

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over 4 years ago Furey and the Feast

How wonderful that you turn an ordinary Tuesday into something special -- and use it to teach your kids to save their money as well! Thank you for trying my recipe, I hope it lived up to the evening.
PS: I do have a dishwasher! :) I just can't seem to say no to friends who want to bring their friends over for dinner. The more the merrier!

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over 4 years ago Jestei

This would be a great sauce on a lot of things I imagine. I would like to take credit for first tuesdays but it was the older one's invention.Give it a whirl and report back on the outfits!

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over 4 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

My daughter--who is now 23--would have loved first tuesdays. She never met a dress up occasion she didn't like. What a great idea!

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over 4 years ago Rhonda35

Herein lies the difference between raising girls and raising boys: at our table, it is considered "fancy" if you wash your hands and change out of your muddy shoes before coming to the table. Like you, we do request good manners and I certainly attempt to serve beautiful and delicious (as well as nutritious) foods. However, we never have anyone storm away from the table with a scream and hurt feelings - mostly because dinner conversations with boys usually consist of shrugs, one or two word answers and a lot of plate refills.
I would love to borrow your girls for a "First Tuesday" because dressing up sounds like a lot more fun than hosing down! Another great blog piece, Jennifer.

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over 4 years ago Jestei

Hilarious response Rhonda. I would be honored to be at your table and so would my gals.

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Ever since the blood orange contest I have been messing with them. Made a Maltaise Sauce the other day for some asparagus which was great. Hadn't thought of the beurre blanc but seems like a logical place to go.

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over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

What's Maltaise sauce? Or should I pull out my Larousse Gastronomique?

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Blood orange hollandaise. I am also thinking First Tuesdays is something I am going to do with my two daughters