"It is a curious fact that novelists have a way of making us believe that luncheon parties are invariably memorable for something very witty that was said, or for something very wise that was done. But they seldom spare a word for what was eaten. It is part of the novelist’s convention not to mention soup and salmon and ducklings, as if soup and salmon and ducklings were of no importance whatsoever, as if nobody ever smoked a cigar or drank a glass of wine. Here, however, I shall take the liberty to defy that convention and to tell you that the lunch on this occasion began with soles, sunk in a deep dish, over which the college cook had spread a counterpane of the whitest cream, save that it was branded here and there with brown spots like the spots on the flanks of a doe." - Virginia Wolf, A Room of One's Own —Food52
Dover sole, gutted (other types of sole or flounder may be substituted)
garlic cloves, finely chopped
shallot, finely chopped
(150 milliliters) dry vermouth
(150 milliliters) fish stock (preferably homemade)
First, prepare the fish. Place it dark-side up and make a cut through the skin, just above the tail. Peel the skin back slowly, using the point of the knife to help you start. Once you have a piece of skin large enough to grip, rub some coarse salt between your fingers and grip the skin firmly with one hand. Place the heel of your other hand firmly on the tail, and then pull back the skin, being particularly careful once you reach the head, or you may end up with a headless fish.
Flip the fish over, and repeat with the pale skin on the other side. Put the fish aside for a moment while you prepare the sauce.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and shallot, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Pour in the vermouth, and simmer until the liquid reduces by half. Add the fish stock and, once again, reduce the liquid by half. Remove from the heat, strain the sauce (discarding the garlic and shallots), and stir in the cream and capers. Return the sauce back to the saucepan—do give it a wash out first—ready to warm through once the fish is ready.
Put the flour for the fish in a wide, shallow bowl and add a grinding of pepper. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over each side of the fish. Put one fish into the flour, and then flip it over, so that both sides are lightly covered in flour. Give the fish a shake to get rid of any excess, and repeat with the other three.
In your widest sauté pan over a medium heat, heat the oil and then add the butter. Once the butter is foaming, add as many of the fish the pan fits. Cook 4 minutes or the fish is until golden, then carefully flip. Cook for 4 minutes on the second side. If you can’t fit all the fish in the pan at once, pop them in a low oven to keep them warm while you finish the second batch.
Place the fish on individual plates and warm the sauce through. Bring fish and sauce to the table and eat immediately.