We were members of Eastman’s CSF (Community Supported Fishery) several years ago and, like our fellow shareholders, came to rely on them as a source of local seafood. The CSF has since closed, but left us knowing what fresh fish is truly like. When we heard about a new one forming, we didn’t hesitate to join.
We chose the half-share option, and grey sole (witch flounder or pole dab) was in the first week’s delivery. Though the names seem interchangeable, the only true sole is that from Dover, the rest is actually flounder. Within this branch of the flatfish family, grey sole is particularly known for its small-sized fillet and delicate flavor.
A pound of fish gave us 7 sparkling fillets. Fish this fresh is best in simple preparations, ones that let the fish shine. Baking it in parchment is an easy cooking technique that gently steams the fish, bathing the enclosed vegetables with the retained juices. This very adaptable method is also a fine way to make use of what’s in season. Instead of the original summer squash, we took fennel from the garden, shaved it into thin slivers, and added torn basil and a handful of Kalamata olives. The fish takes on the briny richness of the olives in an unexpected way, its clean leanness enhanced by the fleshy unctuousness of the olives.
Rather than individual portions, we chose to cook it up in one large packet. Folding instructions may be found here, an alternate version here. Aluminum foil can be used in place of the parchment, but won’t puff up in the same way as with parchment. The larger packet requires a longer cooking time, and tucking the sole filets in half prevents them from overcooking.
Sole in Parchment with Fennel, Basil & Kalamata Olives
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 to 2 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Kalamata or other black olive, cut in half
Basil, torn into pieces
Good olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound filet of sole or flounder
– Heat oven to 350°F. Toss the cut up fennel, green onion, olives, and basil together with enough olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Place a large piece of parchment, about 15 x 24 inches, on a sheet pan. Mound the vegetables in the center. Fold each sole fillet in half and place on top of the vegetables, overlapping one another. Drizzle with some olive oil and white wine, and season with salt and pepper. Fold the parchment over the fish to create a sealed packet.
– Place sheet pan with parchment packet in oven, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until sole is cooked through (foil may take a bit longer). Remove from oven. Slide packet onto a serving platter, cut parchment open and serve immediately, taking care as it releases steam. Serves 2 to 4, depending on how much self control you have.
Recipe adapted from “The Perfect Ingredient” by Bryn Williams.
Local ingredients: Grey sole from Dennis Robillard/Kittery Point CSF; fennel, green onions, and basil from the garden.