Buttery Sole Poached with Spring Vegetables
Serves 4 | start to finish: 15 minutes
The combination of fennel, onions, chiogga beets, carrots, and butter creates a sweet, rich background for sole’s delicate flavor. Because a sole filet is so thin, it cooks quickly—and the less it is disturbed or moved, the better. This recipe requires no manipulation, because the fish steams in the pan right over the vegetables, then thinly sliced fennel stalks add a refreshing crunch and a hit of subtle, sweet anise flavor. This dish is quite saucy, making it a great partner for a rice or polenta dish, such as the ham and spring pea polenta included here.
1 bulb fennel, including stalks and fronds
1 small yellow onion
6 young slender carrots, peeled or vigorously scrubbed
4 small chiogga or golden beets, peeled or vigorously scrubbed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup vegetable broth or 1 reconstituted vegetable bouillon cube
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (such as Hungarian)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 pound Pacific Dover sole filets
Rinse the fennel and shake it dry. Remove the stalks from the bulb and slice the bulb vertically into quarters. Cut the tough core from the bulb, then slice the bulb into horizontal, 1/4 inch thick slices. Remove the fronds from the stalks, then slice the stalks thinly. Set aside the fronds and sliced stalks.
Peel and slice the onion vertically into quarters, then slice it into horizontal, 1/4 inch thick slices.
Cut the carrots into 2 1/2 inch pieces, vertically splitting any wider pieces in half if any are thicker than 1/2 inch. Slice the tops from the beets and slice them into vertical wedges, no thicker than 1/2 inch.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil until it shimmers. Add the onions and fennel, and sauté for 5 minutes, only stirring once or twice to allow the onion and fennel to slightly caramelize. Stir in the butter, vegetable broth, carrots and beets. Add salt to taste. Cook for 3 more minutes.
Stir together the coriander, paprika, turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Gently arrange the sole filets over the vegetables. Sprinkle the spice blend all over the fish. Cover the pan, reduce the heat and steam for 3 minutes.
Remove immediately from the heat. To serve, gently remove the sole filets, along with a generous portion of the vegetables. Garnish by scattering the fresh fennel stalk slices and fronds over the fish.