The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.53
SUMMER2017

Flounder poached in cream

(or sole, cod, pollack, haddock, brill, even turbot if you can get it)

This recipe is descended from Eliza Acton via Jane Grigson; an unbeatable legacy. Its preparation sounds and looks a little bland but it tastes delicate, equally good with summer’s catch or to blunt winter’s chill. For those of us with city apartments that lack good kitchen ventilation, this is an excellent way to cook fish that will not remind you for days and days that… you cooked fish. You will want fresh fillets--about a half pound per person--and a pan just big enough to cook however much fish you need: Otherwise the sauce will turn out thin and insipid. This is an unusual recipe in explicitly using boiling water to cook.


Chef with Sole-fish as described in the introduction, for as many people as you need to feed
-boiling water
-salt
-cayenne
-mace to taste
-heavy cream
-small peeled raw shrimp (optional)


  1. Place the fillets in your pan over medium heat and pour over boiling water just to cover them. Add a little salt.
  2. Immediately set the heat to a simmer and cook the fish for one minute if flounder, sole or haddock, two minutes if cod or pollack, and three minutes for brill or turbot.
  3. Carefully pour off all the cooking liquid so as not to break up the fish, return the fish in the pan to low heat and pour enough of the cream seasoned with the cayenne, mace and a little more salt to settle halfway up the sides of the fillets. Sprinkle the shrimp around the fish if you are using them.
  4. Gently poach the fish, spooning seasoned cream over it to glaze it, until the fish is just no longer translucent: This will not take long.
  5. Gently pry aside some flesh from one of the fillets with a paring knife and fork to peek for doneness.
  6. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Notes:

- Mrs. Grigson recommends serving “a few small potatoes with it, or some poached cucumber dice, finished with a very little butter and parsley.” (English Food at 91) The Editor cannot improve on her suggestion other than to advise you to serve both potatoes and cucumber.

- We have reduced the initial boiling-water time for flounder (a fish not actually mentioned by British authors), sole or haddock from two minutes to one, because in our experience the fish falls apart too quickly to glaze up in the cream with the longer initial cooking time.

- We tend to season the cream heavily with cayenne and mace: Their combination seems to enhance rather than overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fish.

- For verve and color, we add minced parsley and scallions to the seasoned cream.

- If you can get a jar of Devonshire clotted cream, use a generous dollop of it as part of the cream rising halfway up the fish. The sauce will be thicker and obtain more depth of flavor. You could also cut some cold butter shards into the cream at the last moment.

- The original recipes do not include the shrimp, but creamy shrimp sauces for fish are both authentic and salutary.

- Shucked oysters are a delightful alternative to the shrimp.