The sixth in our Men Who Cook series is a heartfelt recipe for a beautiful dish of Pan Fried Filet of Sole by Prameet Kamat. Prameet is a Marketing Manager ((and future leader, if you want to take bets!) at DuPont but what he really is is a powerhouse of emotional storytelling and some seriously high EQ. He has a knack for making people believe in the best versions of themselves and sweeping them up in a maelstrom of positivity. Everything is a little louder, a little brighter and a bigger event. Even something like cooking a meal on a relaxed Saturday afternoon is infused with intensity.
Not given to cooking on a regular basis, every time Prameet does cook, he is fully immersed in the process. And this is brought to big, living color when he cooks for others. “Don’t even dream of stepping into the kitchen” he says, waving a ladle as he cooks us a bit of feast in our kitchen one Saturday afternoon, although he did allow an audience during prep where he riffed off the ingredients. He has great instincts for flavors and even actual cooking methods, inventing recipes that often turn out to be exact replicas of classics.
With a strong love for Indian food, particularly spicy biryanis and the Konkani food of his family, it sometimes comes as a surprise that he also has an appreciation for fresh, subtle flavors. Delicate flavors like the ones he achieved in the beautiful piece of fish he cooked for us. Crisp golden crust covering the tenderest piece of perfectly seasoned fish that absolutely burst with the brightness of lime in every bite. It was glorious. Even the accompaniments were hits. The luscious emerald dipping sauce was fragrant and tangy and the lovely salad of grated carrots dressed with our latest favorite ingredient, mustard oil, was inspired.
Here’s his recipe for the fish, the dipping sauce and the salad, told in his own inimitable style. If you’re cooking fish for the first time, you’ll appreciate the detail and if you listen to some music and crack open a beer as he suggests, you’re going to have yourself a fun afternoon of cooking.
Pan Fried Filet of Sole
For the Fish:
200 gm Filet of fresh sole (or Bass)
50-100 ml Olive oil (probably won’t use all of it)
Salt & pepper to season
About 1/2 cup Wholewheat Flour (for coating the fish)
Olive oil for cooking
For the Salad:
1 medium Onion
Pepper to taste
Salt (Don’t even dream of adding salt!)
A few leaves of Lettuce, washed and ready to use
For the Dipping Sauce:
250 ml Yoghurt
A few leaves of Spinach
4-5 stems Coriander
4 cloves Garlic
1/2 medium Onion
50 ml Cream
For the Fish:
Preparation: Start with the fish, as it should marinate for about 30 minutes. Take the fresh filet cuts of fish and wash thoroughly. Pat dry and slice into long cuts (long cuts look nicer but be sure they are no longer than 2/3 of your pan.) Make sure the “tail” or the thin end of the slice is not too thin or it may burn.
Marination: Coat the fresh fish with olive oil. Normally we marinate meat with acidic ingredients to tenderize it so it absorbs spices. I felt that fish cooks much faster and wanted to protect the fish as well as give it some flavor. Turns out this isn’t a bad idea! (I googled it later and found out that busycooks.com says the same thing in their how to cook fish section). I add some salt, pepper and squeeze some lime onto it (almost good enough to sushi it!). You can probably add a few drops of balsamic to it – but you shouldn’t expose the fish to too much acidity (unlike meats). Let it rest for an hour at the most. If you feel it’s going to take longer to start cooking, refrigerate but remember to let it get back to room temperature and regain moisture before you fry.
Tips: You can add some cuts on the side in the thicker sections of the fish to let it absorb the marinade.
For the Dipping Sauce:
Chop up the coriander (with the stems please), some boiled or soaked spinach (this is mainly to add some body), garlic, half a small onion and maybe just half a chili.
For the Salad:
Slice or grate carrots. Chop onions evenly – not too fine.
Alright, prep is done. You are now 20 minutes away from serving. Take a deep breath, down the beer, play some music and get ready for the ride. A lot of things need to happen together for a great experience so run it in your mind first. Here is what I did.
Start with the Dip
Run all the chopped ingredients in a blender till they form a smooth uniform paste. You can add water but just enough to make the blender run smoothly. You should emerge with a green paste humming with coriander and garlic. Taste a little and add some salt till it starts to acquire the beginnings of flavor. (it should be really tangy at this stage)
Add half a cup of yoghurt and pulse it for 5 seconds. Too much and it will get watery. Test for salt and pulse again for a heartbeat. Add another quarter cup of yoghurt depending on taste and consistency. Empty contents into a bowl and stir in some olive oil for taste. (I love seeing streaks of olive oil in a salad or a dip!). Add cream or yoghurt if you want it thicker. Add a couple of drops of olive oil before your final whisk. Your dip should be yummy enough for you to be unable to resist tasting twice!
Pour the dip into a small bowl, add a small smear of cream and a dash of green – coriander leaf maybe.
Get a nice big white plate ready, take a lettuce leaf, coat it with olive oil and let it rest it in the centre of the plate. (Apart from looking nice, the lettuce leaf allows the fish sauces to pool prettily at the bottom without making the underside a soggy mess).
Move to the salad.
Quickly stir up the carrots and onion in a small bowl – you are aiming for an uneven, slightly untidy looking mix. Add 3-4 drops of mustard oil and a drop or two of balsamic vinegar. The idea is to surprise the diner with a tinge of unexpected flavor!
Take a spoonful of this salad and bring it to rest untidily in one corner of the serving plate.
On to the fish. We are really starting to move now.
Take some wholewheat flour, mix in some salt (very little) and spread out thinly on a plate. Take a trial cut of fish, dry it a little with tissue and coat with this flour. Don’t leave it in the flour too long as it gets the fish too dry).
Warm the pan with some olive oil (and maybe mix in some cooking oil. Don’t use your brand new non-stick – this is going to browwwn!). The oil is to protect the fish from the direct pan heat so make sure it coats the pan evenly. Once the pan is warm – don’t wait for the oil to smoke – drop a dash of butter into the pan. As it foams, turn the heat down to low, drop the trial fish in and drizzle some more olive oil on it (Olive oil smokes off really fast, so you need to keep adding a few drops). The fish starts sizzling in the warm oil as the water hits it and the flour starts to brown. Resist the temptation to turn it over after what seems like a life time but is only 3-4 seconds. Give it about 15-20 seconds and turn over. You have only one shot at this! It should be a golden brown on the side you turn up. If your fish has a ‘thin tail section” make sure it comes in contact with the oil and sizzles.
Give it another 15 seconds. Dip the spatula you are using to crack open a section. The flesh inside should have started to turn white. If its still pink, give it another 3-4 seconds, until it starts to lose the pinkness and is turning white.
At this point, I use two spatulas to bring the fish out – the thin end goes in at the bottom – idea is to not rip off the fine coating of fried flour on the fish – and place it on another regular plate. Add a squeeze of lime and some butter and some olive oil on top and eat!!!! Remember – this is your trial fish! Gauge what you would like to change. By now your pan has been broken in for this cooking session. Repeat with your “guest” fish cut now and this time place it on the lettuce leaf before adding the butter and lime! The fish will glisten with crisp skin and the sauce of oil and butter pooling into the leaf !
Serve with a knife and fork!