Lemon Sole with Anise and Cucumber

I like that I can get away with using catastrophic amounts of butter in my cooking so long as I think of what I’m making as ‘cuisine’ instead of just food. So many of my favorite things to eat are made with heaping mounds of butter. Pâté, when you come down to it, is little more than meat butter, after all. And there’s nothing I like more than meat butter on toast squares with a bit of red current jam.

Of course, I no longer balk anymore at using lots of butter (from locally raised, grass-fed cows, but butter all the same.) As I learn how to eat I become less afraid of cooking with real fats. I think part of eating well is learning not to fear fat. I imagine most of our fat fears come from fear of mortality. Not because we fear heart disease but because fat makes us conscious that the meat we’re eating came from something that was once alive: alive like you or I am alive. Like the cow or pig or lamb I too will one day be just the sum of my parts: fat, muscle, blood, and bones.

But we who cook with fat get a little thrill from brushing shoulders with death. We know we’re cooking an animal. Not that cooking with real fat comes anywhere near to slaughtering an animal, but in an urban kitchen, far from the farm, it’s about as close as you can get.

I’m feeling philosophic today, by the way, because the cherry bounce I was fermenting, which I was supposed to reveal with great fanfare at Christmas, got infested with fruit flies. Some of them even laid eggs. I had to throw it away. Much sadness: hence, a post about fat and mortality.

The recipe below is a Simon Hopkinson fish recipe that uses lots of lovely butter. It’s got a lot of fresh, clean flavors: lemon sole cooked in a buttery froth of absinthe, dill, and cucumbers. There’s even a bit of fancy flambéeing that goes into it; so, plenty of bopping around to distract you from the dark night of eternity. I’ve renamed this dish after the consort of Hades because it has the ability to enliven after a long philosophical winter of the soul.

Lemon Sole Persephone

(Serves 2)

Adapted from Second Helpings of Roast Chicken by Simon Hopkinson

2 filets lemon sole, skinned

4 tablespoons butter, divided.

6 sprigs of dill

Salt and pepper

¼ cup diced cucumber

1-tablespoon anise liqueur

1/3 cup white wine

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1.)   Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.)   Fold filets of sole in half with the fatty side underneath.

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3.)   Rub tablespoons softened butter into ovenproof dish. Lay dill on top of butter and the sole parcels on top of the dill. Season lightly and sprinkle cucumber over fish.

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4.)   Heat anise liqueur in a stainless-steel pan and light with a match. When the flames have died down, pour over fish.

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5.)   Add lemon juice to fish, cover with foil and cook in the oven for 15 minutes or until the fish is just cooked.

6.)   Remove fish to separate platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

7.)   Discarding the dill, take the fish juices, cucumber and butter and pour them into the stainless steel pan. Simmer sauce until it turns syrupy, then whisk in remaining butter, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce has thickened.

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8.)   Pour the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

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