I tend to keep mental lists of reasons I like things. Is that weird?
It’s true of avocados—loaded with good fat, make creamy smoothies, taste absolutely perfect smashed and salted on toast, were just $3-and-something for four at Trader Joe’s yesterday. It’s also true of places—Boston has those historic streets, the North End filled with great food, a beautiful autumn; Colorado doesn’t only offer 300 days of sunshine but is also surrounded by those incredible, breathtaking, larger-than-life mountains.
And of course it’s true of people, like my mom, whom we’re celebrating today. My mom’s list is filled with things like: makes me laugh, is a killer cook, knows just how you should and shouldn’t plant tomatoes each year. She can quote random phrases in Hebrew, knows facts about old theologians, listens to her favorite preachers while she gets ready every morning.
Though I struggle to be 100% honest and blunt with most people, Mom is one person with whom it’s easier. I’m probably sometimes TOO honest with her, in fact. Over her 27 years of motherhood, in which she has born the brunt of my harshest words and most untactful responses, I have been much more free because I know, probably as one of the most sure things I do know, that she loves me. She prayed for me for two years before she had me. She has prayed for me in all the years since she did.
And, as it was with antiquing and gardening and cooking and planning things far, far in advance, she has paved the way for me towards new interests, including something as simple as eating one of her and my dad’s favorite foods: fish.
They like theirs blackened; now I do, too. I also like it baked, encrusted by nuts, and I like it sauteed, slathered in a brown butter sauce and topped by almonds. What fish has going for it is now easy to see: healthy, leaves you feeling light and refreshed instead of heavy and stuffed, can taste delicious!, takes hardly any time at all to cook. (Yesterday morning, when I made this sole amandine for lunch, it took maybe 15 minutes total, I’m serious.)
I’ve made this recipe twice now, and the one thing I have yet to master is knowing when to flip the fish: the first time, I kept flipping over and over again to get it browner, which made the fillets fall apart and lose their crust; yesterday, I flipped much less but still more than once; but both times, the fish still tasted wonderful, slathered in the nuttiness of browned butter and with the edges slightly caramelized.
Thinking about it today, I’m really glad to know fish, with all its strengths, just like I’m glad to know the woman who loves me and always has.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Adapted from Epicurious
Note: I bought my frozen wild sole fillets in a big bag at Trader Joe’s, for a grand total of $5-and-something (and I THAW them before cooking them). I will save the list of reasons why I like TJ’s for another post, but let’s just say I do, I do, I do.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what this goes well with: The first time I made it, it was with a salad and some sauteed spinach. The next time, with roasted broccoli that came out of the oven just as I was finishing my sole.
2 (3- to 4-ounce) thawed sole fillets
Flour for dredging (I used white spelt flour)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pat fish dry and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge in flour, knocking off excess.
Heat oil and 1 Tablespoon butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Cook fish, ideally turning only once, until browned and just cooked through, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes total. Put fish on plate.
Discard fat from skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Add almonds and remaining 2 Tablespoons butter and cook, stirring, until almonds and butter are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over fish.