In the realm of classic French cuisine, any preparation bearing the designation grenobloise—literally, “of Grenoble”, a city in southeastern France—is served with a sauce of browned butter, capers, parsley, and pieces of lemon.
It is important that all components of the dish be ready before cooking as it is essentially a frying-pan-to-plate dish that cannot be kept waiting for any last-minute work.
I will not pretend that this is a simple dish. Simple in conception certainly; but in execution no. You must watch the fish like a hawk to see that it doesn’t stick or burn; to turn it without breaking it is tricky business; the butter must be brought to exactly the right point when it turns a pale hazelnut colour, no more and no less, and the sauce must be poured instantly over the waiting fish and must be served with equal immediacy.
As this is a tricky dish that also requires a large pan to accommodate the fish, it is best not to try to cook sole a la grenobloise for more than two people.
Ingredients for 2 people
2 Dover sole, or any suitable flat-fish
150 g unsalted butter
2 slices of white bread
1 tablespoon small capers
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
flour for dredging the fish
The outer fins of the sole are cut off with scissors, working towards the head. Remove the rough scales from the white underside by scraping with the back of a knife under running water. The head is removed, cutting at angles around it so as not to loose any meat around the collar.
Only the dark upper skin is removed. Run the knife under the skin near the tail, apply a little salt for grip and pull the skin away from the fish.
Chop the parsley and peel the lemon by cutting away the skin and removing segments, leaving the membranes behind. Squeeze the juice from the remaining part and reserve for finishing the sauce. Cut the lemon segments into even pieces.
A slice of bread is cut into small dice for the croutons and fried in butter and seasoned with salt.
While the butter is heating in the pan, the fish is sprinkled with salt and coated lightly in flour. This must not be done in advance or the coating will turn soggy. When the butter is hot, but not too hot add a dash of oil to prevent burning. The fish is placed in with the white skin uppermost. Turn the fish after 4 minutes, cook for a farther 4 minutes, basting the top with the butter. Remove from the pan to a cutting board. Remove the small side bones by dragging or scraping them out with a knife. Lift the top fillets and gently separate them to expose the bone which is lifted out. The fish is neatly reassembled, placed on a very hot plate and set aside to keep warm.
Finally, a clean pan is heated until very hot into which the remaining butter goes. Just at the point when the sizzling and foaming subside and no later, the remaining ingredients are added: lemon juice, capers, lemon dice, parsley, and finally the croutons. Swirl the pan to combine and pour evenly over the sole and serve as quickly as possible.