Did your mom ever say these words to you when you were growing up: "Finish your dinner, there are starving children in China," or: "You're not leaving this table until you finish everything on your plate!"
Well my mother said the former - a lot (mostly about vegetables), but I only remember her making me sit at the dinner table once because I wouldn't eat the food on my plate. That food was fish. Not the little sunflower seeds (perch) we caught at Lake Boone where I spent youthful summers that had been filleted and floured and breaded and fried up for breakfast like the fish in 'fish & chips,' nor was it delectable golden broiled swordfish. Sitting there on my plate making me gag was fishy fish - all slimey and white w/ bones! I couldn't eat it. I wouldn't eat it! I don't remember how long I sat at the table, but I know I never ate that fish.
Well, my distaste for fishy fish 'left the building' the first time I had sole almondine. Julia Child had it right. Butter! And when I reluctantly put that first bite of fish in my mouth, like Julia when she first tasted sole meuniere, my taste buds soared. The toasted almonds! The golden brown tender fish! The butter! The French really do know how to cook.
Since that life-changing food experience, I have learned to enjoy a whole array of fish dishes, but none compares to sole almondine. This sole soothes the soul.
Lately, I've been 'South Beach Atkins Watcher-ing' (my So. Beach-NuAtkins-Weight Watchers diet) and have been dining on lettuce, lean meats, fish, chicken and green veggies... and am at a plateau (you know the one I mean – the one where you lose those first ten pounds, then nothing, nada, zip for weeks). I'm frustrated and yearn to fall off the diet horse for a juicy cheeseburger (with the bun!), but decided that that 'tumble' would be too devastating to my taste buds... I'd never be able to climb back into the 'food deprivation' saddle. I needed a dish that might be a little over-the-top calorie wise, but wouldn't lead me astray. Without prior knowledge of my love affair with sole almondine, my husband decided he wanted to try making it after watching some show or other on the Food Network. We had percale sole in the freezer (this is not a dish for Dover sole which tends to get mushy). We had flour. We had Kosher salt. We had eggs and milk. We had pepper. We had EVOO. AND, we had sweet butter. All he needed was the slivered almonds. My heart soared in taste anticipation as I sent him on his merry Trader Joe way to get them.
Well, dinner was all I expected it to be. I haven't had sole almondine in years (don't know why - just haven't) and taking that first bite again reminded me what great food is suppose to taste like. (Oh, and the veggie he made - another favorite - steamed spinach with a bit of butter and fresh lemon juice.)
Lunch today - romaine lettuce and a hard boiled egg... sigh.
From Tyler Florence (Food Network)
For the Fish:
2 cups blanched slivered almonds
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup milk
4 cleaned sole fillets (6 ounces each)
For the Sauce:
1 large or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Set a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.
Return the pan to medium heat (if you have 2 pans you can work simultaneously at this point, i.e. 2 fillets per pan) and add a 2-count of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to each pan.
Put the flour in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper, to taste. In another shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and milk and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Dredge the fillets in the seasoned flour, then dip them into the egg mixture. Allow some of the excess egg to drain off, then add them to the hot pan. Cook 2 pieces at a time. Fry for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, then carefully turn the fish over to cook the other side. With a spoon, baste the fillets with the butter sauce. Repeat basting to ensure the fish remains moist. Once the other side is cooked (about 30 seconds) carefully remove the fillets from the pan to a serving platter.
Repeat with remaining 2 fillets and a 2-count of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Once the fillets have been removed the pan, add the chopped shallots and gently saute over low heat until translucent, about 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and finish with the lemon juice. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the parsley and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
To serve, spoon the sauce over the top of the fillets and sprinkle generously with the toasted almonds.