When my daughters were little we lived for a time in a beautiful old building high on top of one of San Francisco's famous hills. My brother, my Aunt Cele and Uncle Warde, and my young family had apartments there. Often, we all ate together and since I was hungry to learn my way around the kitchen, I watched all my aunt’s moves — she was a wonderful, simple, and stylish cook. Cele marketed every day; I think she liked the social aspect of her errands. She would pull on her gloves, a smart coat, and with a quick wave to my uncle, off she’d skip down Washington Street’s steep hill to Polk Street to buy what she needed for dinner that evening. If we were lucky it would be petrale sole and bay shrimp — simple and stylish. Now I live on the East Coast so I cook grey sole and the smallest shrimp I can find to relive the flavor of those fun family meals.— CH
Adapted from "Canal House Cooking Volume No. 5" by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer.
- 4 sole filets, about 4 ounces each
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup flour
- 8 tablespoons salted butter
- ½ pound small shrimp, peeled and split in two lengthwise
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
Pat the fish filets dry with a paper towel and season to taste with salt and pepper. Dredge the filets in the flour and shake off any excess.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Slide 2 filets into the skillet. Cook the fish in batches so that you have room to turn them over without breaking them into pieces. Brown the fish about 2 minutes per side and use a large fish spatula to turn the filets. Transfer the cooked fish to a warm platter. Repeat with the remaining filets.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the skillet over medium-high heat, add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shrimp have turned an opaque pink color, 3–5 minutes. Transfer them to the platter with the fish.
Melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat, swirling the pan until the butter is foaming and pale gold. Whisk in lemon juice then pour over shrimp and sole. Or if you like, add cream and cook until sauce bubbles and thickens. Garnish with fresh tarragon or another herb that you like.