Poached sole with blood orange beurre blanc

February 21, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Serves 3 to 4
Author Notes

I have a ridiculous confession to make. I hesitate to tell you because it’s a trivial thing that I’m blowing out of proportion, and I can just imagine the puzzled looks on your faces as you read my admission. What? Really? Huh.

Here goes: I have a fierce aversion to buying fish on sale. That’s it. I know.

I have this notion that buying fish on sale is like ordering seafood in a restaurant on Mondays: it’s just not a good idea. If it’s been knocked down a few bucks, it’s likely been sitting there for days, developing all kinds of fishy odors and rancid flavor notes. I believe prices are slashed only when the fish is hanging on dearly to its last thread of edibility.

Now that I’m doing my fair share of penny-pinching in these rough financial times, I can’t justify paying $10 a pound for swordfish over $2 a pound for chicken, turkey or beef. Pair that with an actual physical reaction when buying fish that’s advertised in a weekly supermarket mailer and you’ll understand why I haven’t had a good piece of fish in longer than I care to admit. I know. I’m slapping my forehead for you.

I’ve not a clue where this aversion originated from. It’ll miff until I have an epiphany of some sort, after years of weekly therapy or when something random triggers a distant memory. But I do know that it’s a silly fear that needs to be conquered – because I miss eating fish.

OK. So let’s do it. Let’s buy some fish on sale.

A local market was having a special on Dover sole: $4.99 a pound, reduced from $10.99. I took home two pounds, about 8 fillets, all snuggled in a brown butcher-paper bundle. I would make poached sole with a blood orange beurre blanc and try not to think of how little I had paid for it.

Like clockwork, my bodily reactions began as I peeled back the paper from the fillets. The backs of my knees started weakening – the same feeling I get when I’m watching surgery on TV or some graphic action flick where everyone has to exaggeratedly spew blood from their wounds (hello, Quentin Tarantino). I held my breath before my stomach could follow with its own unpleasantness.

It all feels like my body is betraying my brain: I knew there was nothing wrong with the Dover sole. It was actually quite beautiful – a bright, pinky white with an even surface. Not even a whisper of an off-smell. My body just couldn’t seem to get the message. It was fine.

I plowed on despite all the weird feelings, trying to ignore my weak knees and queasy stomach. When I finished plating the dish, I served it to my boyfriend first (I admit I did it because I was scared to have the first bite). He declared it delicious, but I observed him for a few minutes to make sure he wasn’t having any delayed adverse reactions. Satisfied that he was OK, I had a bite of my own – and it really was delicious. It was flaky and tender in all the right places, with a citrus kick to brighten it up even more. My body relaxed. I ate the whole thing, but couldn’t help but wonder if it would have tasted better had I paid full price. —Furey and the Feast

What You'll Need
  • 3/4 cup 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Alicia Lombardo
    Alicia Lombardo
  • Furey and the Feast
    Furey and the Feast
  • QueenOfGreen
  • WinnieAb
  • drbabs

5 Reviews

Alicia L. March 27, 2017
You have to trust the place where you buy fish. It's not necessarily because the fish is about to go bad. Always smell and look at the fish before you buy.
Furey A. March 4, 2013
Awesome, hope you liked it!
QueenOfGreen March 3, 2013
Lunch today! Thanks so much for the recipe!
WinnieAb March 24, 2010
LOVE the story and I completely agree...fish on sale just doesn't seem right!
Glad the dish worked out, though, and it looks really great!
drbabs March 24, 2010
I made this last night and served it with roasted broocoli, onions and lemon. It was delicious!