In my mind, nothing renews the soul more profoundly than spending time in the Pacific Northwest – the morning mist, the rhythm of the sea and forlorn cries of gulls circling overhead – there is no comparison.
I especially love the chill in the air that lingers far into the day. There is something about the underlying sense of stillness found in the damp ocean air that brings a whispered hush to my very core. I think I may have been a lighthouse keeper in a prior life. Whenever we spend time in the Pacific Northwest, I make sure to carry a notepad and pen to jot down the waves of deep emotions that seem to wash over me. Whispered voices deep within longing to be heard.
There is a sense of creativity that seems to be a part of the very breath of nature. Golden threads of shimmering light that quietly pierce through lush green foliage of coastal hillsides to welcome the stirring sea at sunrise. The hills themselves seem to bend in submission to awesome the power of the crashing waves that beat against their bosom. Sunsets are spectacular – a symphony of color rush across the sky as the sun hangs low. Clouds propelled by the unseen ocean winds and approaching mist of night magically capture the last fragments of fading hues to kiss the day adieu. The days themselves seem to move more slowly here as though time itself ceases to exist
Day’s end is the perfect time to sit quietly on a hunk of driftwood, digging our toes into the cool, damp sand and warm our hands around a piping cup of deep, rich coco – the elixir of the gods. As the mighty sun at last surrenders to the approaching evening sky, we find ourselves in quiet reflection. There is an odd sense of peace when you realize that the ultimate sense of serenity has at last been achieved. We have allowed the world (and gray whales) to drift aimlessly by. Nothing of this world matters. It is in that sense of letting go that the soul at last rests.
Okay, the whales might not be so aimless after all – they do have a purpose – to feed happily on the billions of Mysid Shrimp found at the edge of kelp beds just off shores of Depoe Bay. Like me, the resident grays possess a natural appreciation for fresh seafood.
The cool days of the Pacific Northwest also mean comfort foods abound that warm you to your toes. Bowls of creamy chowder need not wait until winter sets in. Almost every eatery up and down the coast serves up their rendition of rich, award wining chowder. Some are better than others, each unique to the talents of the chef and none fail to satisfy. (My favorite chowder can be had at the Driftwood in Florence, Oregon). Perhaps it is the readily available fresh clams that make these chowders so exceptional. Freshness here isn’t just limited to clams. There are crustaceans and fish and succulent bounties of the sea to tantalize and temp us. Just take a stroll down the streets of Newport Oregon as the fishing boats arrive with their catch of the day and you will be inspired.
Fresh coastal seafood is seductive. When properly prepared, seafood has a way of awakening the senses. Long after the meal has concluded and the appetite satisfied, my yearning for just one more tantalizing morsel of perfection from the deep lingers on.
There is almost no advanced prep work to creating this simple supper of Pacific Dover Sole Meunière. (And in case you are wondering what in the world is Meunière, it refers to both a sauce of browned butter, parsley and lemons and a method of preparation, primarily for fish. The word itself means “miller’s wife”. No, it is not a reference to Mrs. Miller, but rather to dredge something in flour before sautéing it in a pan with a small amount of Clarified Butter). Aside from selecting the perfect flatfish and clarifying the butter, the ingredients are those you probably already have on hand.
First step to Pacific Dover Sole Meunière is to have Clarified Butter at the ready. Some specialty markets do carry Clarified Butter, and if you are willing to fork over the money for the sake of convenience, that would make life much easier. Clarified Butter is nothing more than butter with all of the milk solids, water, and impurities removed, leaving behind only the pure fat of the butter.
While Clarifying the butter isn’t difficult, it does require time and a great deal of patience. The process below comes from Alton Brown. While there are more rapid methods (such as the microwave method or the cornstarch method) this is the purest method if you are looking maximize the flavor of your Clarified Butter while retaining the most amount of fat. Remember, you are making some for now and a lot for later, so taking the time now is an investment in wonderful future creations. Clarifying the butter is a step that is best to have accomplished at least a day in advance, or better yet on a lazy Sunday afternoon to have at the ready whenever the need arises. Clarified Butter, when properly stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, can kept for up to four months and each pound of whole butter will yield about 1 1/2 cups of Clarified Butter, or 24 tablespoons. The beauty of Clarified Butter (besides the obvious – to use as a butter dip for crab, shrimp or lobster) will not char as easily in sautéing applications.
1 1/2 lbs Unsalted Butter
Cut the butter into 1″ pieces. Place the butter in a 2-quart saucepan and set over medium heat. Once the butter has liquefied, decrease the heat to lowest setting then gradually adjust upward as needed to maintain a low boil.
Cook for approximately 45 minutes or until the butter reaches 260 degrees F, is clear, and the foam on top is slightly browned. (The browning will add depth to the finished butter). The long cooking process will boil off the water content of the butter, leaving only the milk and oil to contend with.
Strain the clarified butter through 4 layers of cheesecloth set over a hand strainer above a heat-proof vessel.
Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Place Clarified Butter into the refrigerator until ready to use.
Pacific Dover Sole Meunière
5 tablespoons Clarified Butter, divided (above)
6 (4 to 6 oz each) Filet of Sole, boneless, skinless
Kosher salt, to taste
White Pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
Note: The fish used in this dish does not necessarily need to be Dover sole, especially given its sustainability in recent years. An other flat, white fish such as flounder or halibut will be just as delightful served in this simple fashion with the lemony brown butter sauce.
Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.
Place flour on a plate or pie pan and set aside.
Heat about 2 1/2 tablespoons of Clarified Butter in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. (Just enough to cover the bottom of the pan well to allow fish to gently “fry” in the butter).
Working in batches, dust Sole in flour, shaking off excess, and then place in skillet; cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, the edges beginning to crisp and the fish is just cooked through, about 6 minutes.
Transfer fish to a warm serving platter and hold in a warm oven. Repeat with remaining filet pieces and Clarified Butter as needed.
Once all the fish has been cook, the sauce can be made.
Lemon Brown-Butter Sauce
4 tablespoons Whole Butter
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
1 Lemon, cut into slices
3 tablespoons Parsley, finely chopped
Dab skillet clean with a paper towel and return to medium-high heat with remaining butter. Cook, swirling the pan, until butter melts and is just beginning to brown.
Lower the heat to medium. Add lemon juice slices, the butter will begin to sizzle and foam up. Once most of the foaming has subsided, place lemon slices into the skilled to soak in a little of the butter.
Remove lemon slices and set aside.
Remove pan from heat. Sprinkle butter with parsley, giving the pan a final swirl.
Remove fish platter from oven. Pour sauce evenly over sole. Garnish with lemon slices and a pinch of parsley if desired.
Serve immediately. A nice Rice Pilaf or Lemon Fettuccine is a great side, as is a crisp simple salad and warm bread.