Lemon & Ginger Sole
With Forbidden Rice
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This is probably a bit odd to say in the lead-up to a recipe, but a lot of people rely too heavily on recipes. Obviously recipes are great jumping off points, and they're indispensable for certain tricky preparations, but they can be too limiting. So, while I love a good recipe book, I find that nothing is quite so liberating or inspiring as wandering into a market and just buying the food that looks interesting, just to figure out what to make out of it later. In this case, the food I found was not only interesting, but unbelievably inexpensive. I wanted to make fish, and my local Korean grocer was carrying some very nice sole at... wait, what? 2.99 a lb? Nothing costs 2.99 a lb! I've seen beef bones that cost more than that! That's 1/10th the price of halibut!
So, having no idea what I could pull of with it, I bought a pair of sole (Pacific Dover sole to be specific, Microstomus pacificus), had them scaled and gutted, and brought them home. Lucky for me, Pacific Dover sole is mild, tasty, and really easy to cook. It's a flatfish, so the fillets are skinny and cook up in a flash. The most common method of preparing sole, Sole a la Meuniere, is a buttery concoction that usually uses the more familiar (and more expensive) common sole (Solea solea). You could certainly use Pacific Dover sole to make that recipe, but I decided to riff off of the original butter-wine-lemon base and take things in another direction. There's zero lemon juice in this recipe, and ginger plays a starring role in a sweetened wine sauce. The smoked paprika might seem like an odd choice, but it's just the right amount smoky piquancy to cut the sweetness and add depth to the sauce.
Take care with the sole, as it can overcook quickly. If it does, it still tastes fine, but becomes dry and overly flaky. If you can buy sole fillets, this recipes comes together very fast. However, even if you have to break down the fish yourself, it should take too long.
It's worth finding black rice for this dish too. Not only does it add spectacular colour, but the berry-like flavour holds its own against the buttery, sweet citrus of the fish. While we're on the subject, black rice (also called 'forbidden rice') refers to one of several rice varieties notable for their very high anthocyanin content. These compounds impart black rice (actually dark purple) with a rich, almost berry-like flavour. It can be found in most well-stocked East Asian grocery stores. Consider a 1:1 mix of black rice and short grain white rice (as shown in the photo), as the colour will spread to the white grains and the flavour will mellow a little bit.
If you have a nice sharp microplane, feel free to use that to zest the lemon. However, try to stay away from box graters and the like, as they leave an awful lot of lemon oil on the blade. If you don't have a microplane, try peeling the lemon carefully (avoiding the bitter white pith under the surface), then slicing and finely dicing the peel. You'll end up with tiny little bits of zest that actually caramelize a little during broiling and add a lot to the character of the dish.
Nutritional information is given for a single serving (1/4 total recipe) and includes black rice.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Pacific Dover Sole with Lemon and Ginger
- 1.5 lbs Pacific Dover sole fillet (or other small flatfish)
- 2 stalks celery sliced thinly, diagonally
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp lemon zest (approximately one lemon)
- 1 tbsp ginger minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- black rice for 4 people, see note below.
- Cut each fillet into 4-5 portions and set aside.
- Combine the lemon zest, ginger, wine, and sugar in a bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.
- Turn on the broiler on the oven and allow it to preheat.
- Heat a cast iron or other oven-proof skillet on the stove top over high heat for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the smoked paprika and stir together as the butter melts.
- Once the butter is just beginning to bubble up, add the celery and stir together. Cook for about 30 seconds, then add the wine mixture and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the fish to the frying pan and gently stir to get some of the sauce onto to the fillets. Immediately transfer the frying pan to the oven (use whatever rack allows you to get the frying pan close to the broiler).
- Broil for 4-5 minutes, or until the sauce, celery, and fish as starting to brown at the edges. Remove from heat and serve with black rice (see note below) or the side of your choice.