á la meunière means 'miller's wife style', or dusted with flour and then fried in shallow oil, rather than tossed in the dung heap as you may have thought if your grasp of French is similar to mine. I owe this fact to our elderly Time-Life 'Fish and Shellfish' edited by Richard Olney and long out of print. Having moved out of home unable to boil an egg (Remember I grew up in South Africa in an era where 1)most men didn't cook (other than to burn meat on the braai (barbeque)) 2)Servants were a norm in any middle-class household, and certainly any 'white' one.) and finding myself living with someone I was very much in love with... but who had even less of an idea about how to cook, and having a moral objection to paying someone less than I would be prepared to do the job for - which would have meant paying a cook my entire salary at that time, I learned to cook out of these books. They're in the old French style of cooking - and the old methods too. There is no such thing in these books as a short cut, if a recipe called for chicken stock, it involved boiling a chicken carcass with a bouquet garni. Being me I learned the short-cuts pretty rapidly, but not before learning to do it the hard real way. And learning to do it all very quickly, because at 22 you're both impatient and really hungry by supper time...
As time has worn on I find my cooking has gradually leaned away from the French towards rustic Italian in style, but I'm still obsessed with fresh ingredients, quality and often as minimalist as possible (yes I can hear a lot old friends packing up laughing and wondering how I can sit and type with my pants on fire) - but prettying up food a little takes seconds and you enjoy as much with all your senses as you do with your mouth. And one man's complex is another's simple. If you think about it I focus on bringing out the best flavours in something. If it isn't up to much you do have to lift it... but tradition is dead right on sole (or by extention, flounder)á la meunière is the right way to do fine fish, where you really want to taste and savour the fish. Flounder can be cooked skin-on, just remember (Luke) you must go to the dark side first. It's thicker and slightly curved. These flounder were pretty well pan-sized, just a few centimeters over the legal limit. I dusted them with flour, salt and fresh Tasmanian native pepper (I am getting really fond of this spice. Oddly even ordinary black ground pepper Australia seems to be better quality and fresher and more flavourful than South African, which is not something I could say about the dried fruit mix. What's all this rubbish in there? Green blobs belong in primordial oceans, not in fruit-cake mix).
Shallow frying fish needs high heat, and seriously, that's where I disgree with my classical French recipe. Olive oil is not good for fierce heat frying, and neither is clarified butter. I use rice-bran oil (because I bought it out of curiousity) for this but sunflower or canola are fine too. We come back to the difficult bit of cooking a fish perfectly - and at least these flounder are close to the same thickness. The joy here is that I'm not cooking for a restaurant client that I have to humour and be nice to. It's OK to have a tiny piece (less than the size of a five cent piece and about as thick) not quite cooked up against the spine right against the head, if not cooking it is going to mean the rest is just perfectly done, and Ms. Fussbudget is not going to send it back to the kitchen to get overdone. I didn't marry Ms. Fussbudget, and B knows the choices :-) If you don't like my cooking you can cook for yourself.
Anyway, the greenback flounder was superb. It's delicately textured, clean flaking rich little fish (probably lots of those omega 3 oils), with almost a hint of sweetness to it. It comes off the bone easily and even the skin is good. We had a salad of lettuce thinnings, pumpkin seeds and island tomato (and I'll leave out the tomato next time.) and baby potatoes with it, and I pronounced it the second best meal I have had on the island. Worth going out in the dark with a spear for.
Tomorrow we are going on a bus-tour! (before you die of shock, this is organised by the local council and will go to various gardens to look at the possibility of organising a community garden for the Island. Some bloke called Josh Byrne - I gather a TV gardener? - will be there.) I will get to steal with my eyes again ;-) It's worth going on a bus tour for - which also means I should not be writing about cooking, but about Hekate.