It’s been too long since I’ve done any Julia Child recipes. I had a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and a desire to cook up some fish that we brought back from our vacation to the Outer Banks. The filets were tilefish–meaty and mild, and they were well-protected in their freezer wrap but still, after a few months, you need to dress them up a bit.
Julia, with her penchant for wine, butter, and cheese, had just the solution. This was a relatively easy dinner from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and was just fancy enough to be special without being too pretentious.
12 ounces of fresh white mushrooms, cleaned, patted dry and sliced
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
2 1/2 pounds filet of sole, flounder, or tilefish
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots or green onions
1/2 cup water
1 cup white wine
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk or heavy cream
1/4 cup grated cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet. Toss the mushrooms in the butter over moderately high heat for a minute or two without browning. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and set aside.
Sprinkle half the onions along the bottom of a buttered dish that can be used on both the stovetop and oven (I have a cast-iron dutch oven). Season the filets with the salt and pepper and lay them across the onions in one slightly overlapping layer. Sprinkle the remaining onions or shallots over the fish, then add the mushrooms, and finally the water and white wine. Bring the dish to simmer on the stove.
Spray a piece of parchment cut to size on one side and lay it over the fish.
Place the dish into the oven and cook until just barely done, 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. You’ll know it’s ready when a fork can easily pierce the skin of the fish but don’t let it get dry and flaky. Take the dish out and drain all the cooking liquid into a saucepan. Set the fish, still inside the dutch oven, aside, covered.
Preheat the oven’s broiler. Meanwhile, bring the cooking liquid to a rapid boil and boil it down until it has reduced to one cup. Take it off the heat. Meanwhile, soften the remaining three tablespoons of butter and beat it into the flour to form a paste. Beat that paste into the boiling, reduced cooking liquid, then mix in 1/2 cup of milk or cream. Bring that mixture to a boil. Thin the sauce with additional tabelspoons of milk or cream until it coats the spoon nicely. Season to taste and spoon it over the fish.
Cover the fish with the cheese. Place the whole cooking dish back until the oven, under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, just long enough to melt the cheese and reheat the fish. Serve as soon as possible.