grilled dover sole
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If turbot is the king of fish, Dover sole surely must be the queen. It’s actually easier to cook than turbot, which is a big beast and there’s a quandary what to do with it – whole? Or quarters, bone in? Or fillet it and lose some of the flavour (and quite a bit of the flesh if it’s me who fillets it)? With sole there’s no problem – simple grilled is the best, with some caper butter, and the best thing is you can’t really spoil it. Even slightly overcooked it will still be firm but delicate.
I cook it skinned because they just look so great with the delicate flesh exposed, slightly scorched from all that butter, with capers dotted all over on a plate. You can buy your fish skinned but it’s dead easy – you cut off the long dorsal fins on both sides with a pair of scissors, make an incision in the skin at the tail end, insert the knife underneath to get purchase and then just pull it off with a piece of paper towel for a better grip. You can cut heads off or not, just make sure you don’t cut off too much flesh – the nicest close to the head.
Do not try skinning lemon sole though – I tried once and I did eventually succeed, the experience bearing resemblance to pulling teeth with bare hands. When I told my fishmonger about it he fell into a tray of kippers, laughing. They share the name, those two fishes. They don’t succumb to the same treatment.
Butter, butter and more butter – the key to tasty grilled fish. That actually applies to lemon sole too – SKIN ON – and plaice, John Dory, flounder or brill. I melt butter in a small pan and brush the fish all over, then baste it again during the cooking.
And an interesting fact about Dovers – they need aging. Unlike most fish, those are the tastiest having lounged around in the fridge for a few days.
grilled dover soleServings: one fish per personTime: about 20 minutes
- one Dover sole per person (about 200g each are the best, and generally cheaper than the big ones)
- about 50g butter
- salt and pepper
- two spoonfuls of capers in brine, drained
- juice of half a lemon
To skin the fish, cut off the long dorsal fins on both sides with a pair of poultry or ordinary scissors. Make an incision in the skin at the tail end, insert the knife underneath to get purchase and grab the end of the skin with a piece of paper towel for a better grip. Pull towards the head, making sure no flesh sticks to the skin. Either cut the heads off or leave them on. You can also skin only the dark side or both.
Preheat the grill with a rack and melt the butter in a small pan on the hob. When the grill is hot, season both sides of the soles with salt and pepper and brush them generously with melted butter. Place the fish under the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side (depending how large they are), brushing again with butter at least once halfway through.
Turn up the heat under the remaining butter to get it foaming and add in the capers and lemon juice, then turn off the heat. Serve the soles with plenty of caper butter poured over and something simple like stir-fried green veg.