I can’t avoid a well-cooked Dover sole. Sole meunière is one of my favourite dishes ever. It’s unavoidable for me, that rich, nutty butter, the texture, the odd caper or two – it’s last meal stuff.
This dish came about when I was sweating it out on the line at Nobu in Park Lane. Drew Nieporent, legendary New York restaurateur and Nobu partner, had just landed in town and as usual came in to say hi. He asked me to take care of his menu but he wanted Dover sole. I thought, in the heat of it (we used to rock 400/500 covers for dinner back then) he must be feeling like sole meunière – f**k, I would be – and this is going to be my starting point.
I jazzed it up with a salsa that I’d been tinkering with, something fresh, zesty with a hint of chilli and a double whack of shiso to steer it back towards something Japanese-y. It worked; it f**king worked! It was one of those moments when you know you’ve nailed it. It went on to be a special, then on to the menu, even Nobu-san had a crack at making it for one of his books.
The sauce also works with steamed green veg, with langoustines hot off the barbie, or as a dip for salmon sashimi or whatever else you have – it’s the ‘cheat’ sauce.
Serves two as part of a multi-course menu (but I could easily eat one of these on my own)
1 skinless Dover sole, approximately 400g
1 litre rapeseed oil for deep frying
1tbs grapeseed oil
20g plain flour
60g best-quality salted butter, diced into 1cm x 1cm chunks
Spicy shiso ponzu (see below)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Spicy shiso ponzu (makes 100ml)
20g finely diced red onion
5g finely diced red chilli, seeds and membrane discarded
35ml shiso vinegar
Juice of ½ a plump, juicy lime
4 fresh shiso leaves, finely shredded (can’t find shiso? replace with 6-8 mint leaves)
4tsp green Tabasco sauce (can you use red instead? No way!)
2tsp grapeseed oil
To make the shiso ponzu, combine all the ingredients and whisk vigorously with a fork. This doesn’t keep well, so make it right before using.
It’s a total joy to fillet a Dover sole as it’s a flat fish and has four fillets, two on the top and two on the underside. Once the skin is off you’ll see the layout much more clearly. Run the knife down the centre and, pressing the knife against the bone, work the fillet away in smooth, longish swipes of the knife. Do this for each fillet.
Keep the bone – it’s tasty and crunchy. Cut away the head and whack the bone straight into the fryer and deep-fry it at 180°C until it’s golden. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Set aside.
When you’re nearly ready to serve, heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add one tablespoon of grapeseed oil. Lightly season the sole fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. Now, run the fillets through the flour, coat well, then shake off any excess flour.
The fillets will appear to have a convex or outwardly curved side; place this into the pan, one piece at a time. Give the pan a gentle shake to ensure no sticking is going down. After about 90 seconds, add the chunks of butter, spreading them evenly around the pan and giving the pan some more shaking action. Cook for 40-50 seconds. Your fish should start taking on a sexy golden colour; if it hasn’t you could raise the heat a little or wait a bit longer.
So, once it’s golden, turn off the heat, flip the fish over and give it a last little shake around. Allow the fillets to rest for 30 seconds and let the residual heat finish gently cooking the underside.
Plate ’em up and drizzle your sauce over. Make sure that you don’t forget to include the crunchy bone – break it into pieces to make it easier to share. (Be careful though, a bone is still a bone and you’ll need to watch out.)
Recipe taken from Junk Food Japan. Photography by David Loftus