Friday, June 29, 2012

Last Dinner in Europe

Tuesday night was our last meal in England and our ninth anniversary, so we celebrated at a little French bistro in Kensington, where we dined on the sidewalk and nearly froze in the cool evening drizzle; a quintessential London experience.

Unlike Suffolk, London actually feels like Europe. Ancient and modern architecture coalesce in a cacophony of foreign languages.  Fashion. Food. The fast pace of an international city. It was everything that our village was not.  

We dined at Cote Restaurant just off the High Street and enjoyed a bottle of their house red, Lagarde Rouge. I ordered the pan-roasted duck breast with  gratin potato and a griottine cherry sauce. Rich ate linguine with tiger prawns, mussels, clams, and squid sautéed in garlic, chilli, shallots, white wine, and cherry tomatoes.  

Britain has a persisting reputation for poor food. But it’s really just the pub food that gets old. Overall, England is chockablock full of ambitious chefs, fresh, real food, and inspired menus.   Our experience at Cote was no exception.

As much as I’m sad to leave England, I’m so excited to see the sun again and savor the culinary scene of the Southwest. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sole Meuniere

We have ten days left in England before we return to the United States. The move is bittersweet. I'll miss living in Europe, but I'm so thrilled to see the sunshine and palm trees of Arizona. 

Anticipating our departure, we traveled to the eastern coast of this chilly island to the town of Aldeburgh a few weeks ago. The children crawled along the beach's smooth, sea-tumbled rocks. Brad tossed them into the sea. Cole tried to eat them. To each his own. 

As for me, I hungered for some Dover Sole, which we found at this amazing little fish shack right on the beach, the boats run aground only steps away.

Sole meuniere (sol-mun-yair) was the first dish Julia Child enjoyed when she arrived in France. It was the spark that set ablaze her love affair with French cooking. As I read about it in her memoir, My Life in France, I imagined a complicated, time-consuming masterpiece of cookery. But like many French classics, Sole meuniere is simple peasant food elevated to haute cuisine. Its simplicity, however, requires impeccable ingredients, including seawater-fresh fish.

Our fish came wrapped in the latest gossip about the royal family. Probably the best place for it. The gossip, that is, not the royal family. Especially now as all of Britain is abuzz with the Diamond Jubilee, the 60th year of her majesty's reign.

So let's get on the food, shall we? I almost hesitate to call this a recipe. Really it's just a method of preparation. The secret is in the quality of the ingredients and the intuition of the chef. Serve with mixed greens in a simple vinaigrette, potatoes, and blanched vegetables with beurre blanc.

serves 2

1 whole sole, about 10-16 ounces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (gluten free is acceptable)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Combine the flour, sea salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and dredge in the flour, salt, and pepper mixture.

Heat the butter in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the fish on one side for about two minutes. Turn gingerly and cook on the other side for one to two minutes, or until just cooked through. Remove to a serving platter. Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.