Poached sole with blood orange beurre blanc

February 21, 2010
4 Ratings
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

  • Serves 3 to 4
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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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