Lemon sole needn’t be mushy if you cook the fillets gently with creamy, Parmesany coating. Make sure you pick the dark-skinned fillets – they are thicker and firmer.
Two sides of lemon sole
Lemon soles have two sides: dark and light. It’s the characteristics of all flatfish: they have eyes in the back of their heads and the belly slides along the sea floor. The belly is white, the back grey or black to blend with the environment.
Fun fish fact
Technically, it’s not the back and belly but two sides. Fascinatingly, flatfish are born as round fish with eyes on both sides and only as they grow and adjust to living on the bottom of the ocean, their eyes shift to one side and the body flattens. Wonders of nature never cease.
Types of flatfish
Flatfish have a steep class system, with the turbot and Dover sole the flat aristos; brill an aspiring bourgeois; and the hoi polloi of the likes of plaice, dab and flounder. Lemon sole is a bit of an outcast: a commoner among the soles.
I like all flatfish, even or perhaps especially the flounder that takes me back to my childhood holidays at the Baltic seaside with its fried fish stalls. But I certainly appreciate the upper class of fish too: give me a grilled Dover sole or a turbot steak any time.
Dark side of the sole
If it’s a whole fish or a steak cut across, no issues. It’s the fillet that I am, and everyone should be particular about. The dark side of the fish is the best: it’s much thicker and fleshier than the white one.
When I buy my fish I always ask the fishmonger for the dark one. Funnily enough it’s never a problem because apparently most other people prefer the white, in mistaken belief it’s a skinless fillet. When I order my plaice from fish and chip shop, I also try to get the dark side of plaice (awkward customers, the two of us since The Weather Man must have his haddock skinned). I can’t help feeling I’ve been gypped if the whitey lands on my plate.
Next time you buy or order a sole or plaice, look closely: not only is the white fillet skin-on, but there’s far less meat on it. Make sure you go for the black one, all the difference. You’re welcome.
Lemon sole to impress
This is a fillet, black of course, of a fat big lovely lemon sole cooked in creamy Parmesan sauce as inspired by Galton Blackiston. I have cut calories somewhat around the amount of cream and cheese and it’s still a supremely tasty, luxurious dish. Unlike very often, the lemon sole isn’t mushy or overcooked. One of those dishes you can impress with because they look so much more laborious than they really are. With dark skinned fillets every time!