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SOLE PICCATA ... WHAT WENT WRONG?

I was trying to make sole piccata last night for the first time. It's a simple recipe. Dredge the sole in seasoned flour, sautee in olive oil, remove fish from pan, add butter, saute shallots and garlic, deglaze pan with wine, heat lemon juice, and capers, reduce and drizzle over sole and serve.

I patted the sole dry before dredging, heated the pan and oil first, and I didn't crowd the pan when cooking the sole. I cooked it in two batches.

Well, my sole didn't turn a golden brown and it fell apart as I turned it. The taste was ok but it's looks were bleh at the best. Any idea why this happened or what I can do to fix it?

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  1. To facilitate browning, I think you shoud have added a little butter to the olive oil when you sauteed the fish. Also you might not have let it cook long enough.

    1. Agree that a little butter will help the browning. Also, the pan may need to be hotter as well.

      1. Maybe the pan wasn't hot enough?

        I don't dredge in flour (though that does help with browning) and use fridge cold fish (almost frozen).
        I heat my pan on high heat. Pat fish dry. Then saute' on one side for 2 minutes, covered (and this creates a kind of "sear" that keeps the gentle fish together and browns. ) After 2 minutes, I turn off the heat (gas heat - if electric remove pan from burner) and let it sit for two minutes, covered.

        Then remove fish from pan sliding onto a plate with spatula - let it sit on the spatula while pan heats again. Reheat pan to high heat and flip fish in to cook the second side for 2 minutes. (time varies depending on the thickness of fish, but 2 minutes is about right for most cuts I've seen) You can flip fish into the pan, but the plate move is a surer bet of not breaking the fish (falling apart).

        Anyway, maybe your pan was not hot enough.

        1. Flaky fish are always tricky to flip. Try using an extra wide spatula. I have one that works great with fish and pancakes.

          1. I find sole, very delicate to work with.

            My guess would agree with the others, pan not hot enough. Add butter.

            1. Sole is such a delicate fish and if the piece you were using was too thin it could have cooked through before browning if the pan wasn't hot enough. Agree butter will help facilitate browning. I like to use Wondra over regular flour on fish to help dry and brown the fish. Next time try it with a more sturdy fish like snapper or grouper and you will have no problems. Sounds wonderful though.

              5 Replies
              1. re: scubadoo97

                It did have a great flavor and it was cooked enough or at least the way I like fish but on thinking about it I agree that it probably wasn't hot enough. I cut back the heat a little thinking that would give it more time to brown since it is such a thin fish. I didn't consider butter but I will certainly try that next time and report back.

                Thanks all for the input. I don't cook fish enough and hence don't have a lot of experience. I would very much like to develop a wider repertoire so any other fish ideas you might have would be greatly appreciated. My husband is heartily sick of salmon and tuna since he tends to like less 'meaty' fish!

                1. re: KingsKetz

                  I don't know if you have a Costco near you.

                  But if you do, try the flash frozen Tilapia. It's in a blue bag, and the filets are indiviually packed. I never liked tilapia until I started using this product. I could do a commercial for them, because every time I get a new bag I give away a filet to a friend! I tell them to mix 2 T. sour cream, with 1 T. dijon mustard. Mix it together, dip one filet in that mix, then dredge in Panko bread crumbs. Fry in 2 T. butter & 2 T. oil, for 3 min. on the first side and 2 min. on the other side. Let rest on a paper towel for 5 min., squeeze lemon. They report back that IT is fantastic. Very mild, nice white fish.
                  I think your DH will love it!

                  1. re: mcel215

                    does costco have frozen grouper or snapper?

                    1. re: alkapal

                      I am in Boston, and our Costco doesn't carry frozen grouper or snapper.

                      1. re: mcel215

                        Even our Costco doesn't carry these and they are in our local waters. I see a lot of grouper and snapper coming from places other than the US in a lot of grocery stores. Too bad!

              2. sole is delicate, so it is hard to flip. my first thought was, not enough heat in the pan. that, and add some butter up front, too. faster cooking on higher heat will also help maintain the integrity of the piece of fish, i believe.

                i like the idea of using very cold fish to not overcook the fish inside, while being able to get a good toasty light brown crust-ette.

                5 Replies
                1. re: alkapal

                  Thanks for the tilapia idea. Do you think I could bake it instead?

                  I never thought of using cold fish to cook it just naturally bringing it to room temperature but that makes sense. Thanks.

                  1. re: KingsKetz

                    i think you meant to ask your question of mcel, right?

                    imo, baking might work fine, but you won't get the nice crisp crusty aspect.

                    1. re: KingsKetz

                      I think you could bake the tilapia, but I haven't tried it. Pan searing it and letting it sit on a paper towel for a couple of minutes, takes most of the grease off. It's nice and crisp.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          No, it doesn't cool too much. I just let it sit for about 2 minutes and squeeze a little lemon on it. It's really good.

                  2. Why not just use a deeper pan, more oil, and deep fry the fish? Saves the trouble of flipping and you'll get a crisper more savory end product.