Ronald Johnson admits to lifting this simple English classic from Theodora FitzGibbon’s Country House Cooking for his own American Table. Frying fish of course is standard British technique; so is the use of anchovy to sauce it. Do not be deterred if you cannot find sole, or if you find it prohibitively expensive. Flounder or any other flatfish will work well too. For four.
-1 cup heavy cream
-about 2 teaspoons anchovy paste, mashed anchovy or Gentlemen’s Relish
-½ cup flour
-2 Tablespoons olive or neutral oil
-6 Tablespoons water
-2 stiffly beaten egg whites
-4 filets of sole or other flatfish
-salt and pepper
-enough neutral oil to fill a good sized skillet 1 in deep
- Make the anchovy cream by beating the cream until stiff and then folding the anchovy into the thickened cream.
- Make the batter for frying the fish by whisking together the flour, oil and water, then folding the beaten egg whites into the mixture just before frying the fish.
- Heat the oil over medium to medium high heat; if you have a candy thermometer, get the temperature to 350°; if you do not, test the heat of the oil by adding a little of the batter; it should bubble and brown.
- Season the fish with salt and pepper, then dip each filet in the batter and fry until golden, usually for no more than a couple of minutes a side. Fry the fish in batches if necessary.
- Drain the fish on paper towels and serve it with the anchovy cream.
- Our Appreciation of the Anchovy in the lyrical includes a discussion of Gentlemen’s Relish.
- All you need to accompany the fish are something green and either boiled little potatoes or, for elegant fish & chips, potatoes fried in the same fat used for the fish. Cut the chips to the size and shape you want, soak them in cold water for a couple of hours, fry until pale gold, remove and drain them until cooled, then fry them again until bronzed. Obviously the smart move is frying the potatoes before the fish.
- Most of Johnson’s recipes have some link to the United States, whatever their country of origin. This one, he thinks, does not, but no matter; as he says, “here I cheat, with only the flimsy excuse that I like the recipe.” (The American Table, Weston CT 2000, 43)