Sole Veronique, Champagne Fluid Gel, Triple-Cooked Chips
Specialty Equipment: water bath, vacuum machine, thermometer, dehydrator, mandolin
Specialty Ingredients: black truffle, soy lecithin, maltodextrin DE19, gellan F, transglutaminase
Dish as in The Fat Duck:
Sole Veronique. It is such a beautiful name for a dish. It screams out beauty, lightness and delicateness. I always wondered why the dish was named ‘Veronique’. Did Heston have some fond memories of a particular girl? What could it be? It was a bit of a disappointment to learn from the introduction it is actually a dish from the great Escoffier. My fantasies were broken, but I was still extremely curious to cook this Dover sole course. It’s because I see it as the quintessential Fat Duck dish. Although the photo ‘as in The Fat Duck’ may appear to be a simple piece of fish and two smears with some leaves on top, there are numerous characteristics of the book to be found in the recipe. Some examples:
- A pursuit to perfect a classic preparation or dish. In this case the chips.
- A riff on a dish from the past.
- Multiple dimensions to one ingredient, here the grape: gel, compressed, dried, verjus, champagne, and Muscat wine.
- The fluid gel.
- Low temperature cooking.
- Curiosity. The Fat Duck was one of the first restaurants, if not the first, to use transglutaminase.
- Common ingredients: black truffle and, especially, the onion.
As you can read in the previous post, I made this dish with three friends. Due to the characteristics mentioned above it is the perfect dish to cook with people unfamiliar to the book, because it is in my eyes a cross-cut of the entire thing. There may be, like the previous post, some unphotographed preparations, so sorry for that.
Just like the Lasagne of Langoustine there were some small things to prepare the day in advance. In this instance the dried onion rectangles and the dried grapes. The rectangle is made from silverskin onions and it is quite a fiddly job. It is made by slicing the small onions on a mandolin, blanch them for a short amount of time, dip them in a mixture of water and maltodextrin (drives off moisture), lay them on a dehydrator tray with a slight overlap between the rings and dry them for 24 hours at 60°C. I forgot to take a picture of the grapes, but they can be seen in a photo later on in the post.
From this point on I did not really do that much, because after the lasagna the kitchen was a well oiled machine. This dish was made in no time. The only problem is having the right equipment and ingredients, otherwise it really is a recipe to try out.
Drying parsley leaves in the microwave.
The chips! Oh yeah the chips. I might have looking forward to these things ever since I read about them. The downside. The freaking preparation. You first have to cook them delicately, sous-vide them three times to dry the outside, fry them a first time, sous vide them once again three times, at which point you can store them. However after all the trouble, and it is, you end up with some good looking chips ready for the final deep fry.
The recipe calls for Maris Piper or Arran Victory potatoes cause of the right percentage of dry matter. Here in the Netherlands, quite the potato producer instead of importer, these British varieties are (next to) impossible to find. After long discussions with suppliers we bought a potato with dry content in the required range.
Cutting fresh grapes in small slices before compressing them three times. As you can see the utmost precision was applied to the grapes. Cool. Love the concentration.
We had some beautiful, fresh Dover sole. Dover sole, called ´tong´ over here, is the most beloved flatfish of all in the Netherlands. Turbot is more of a restaurant fish, the Dover sole reigns supreme in the hearts of people at home. Just like the British and the French, preparation number #1 is frying them in butter, on the bone, and finishing the fish with some lemon juice.
Anyway, to clean a Dover sole you loosen up the skin at the tail end by scraping it with a knife, which enables you to rip off the skin in one piece.
Binding the filets together with transglutaminase. You first ‘glue’ together the fillets of the same side of the fish and then bind the four filets together, while putting some black truffle between the two blocks of filet.
Shameless advertising. The guy holding the piece of fish is one of the owners of the burger joint Burgermeester. They serve burgers from organic meat and vegetables and they are simply one of the best hamburgers you´ll ever taste. They would not be out of place to the establishments featured in the episode on hamburgers of In Search of Perfection.
Big, portioned pieces of fish vacuum packed with some butter.
The pureed parsley for the foam should be made with a PacoJet, but it can also be done with a food processor, which is what we did. You first blanch the leaves to get a vivid green color and loose the raw edge, add them with water in a food processor and blend for a couple of minutes, then sieve the content and add soy lecithin.
All the components: dried parsley leaves, grape marinade, dried grapes, compressed grapes, fluid gel, onion rectangles and chips ready for a final deep fry. All looks well. But wait, small disaster is just around the corner. I popped open a champagne bottle for the fluid gel, I put on a ‘stand-in’ cork and put it next to the stuff on the photo below. There must have been some pressure bluiding up in the bottle, because the cork popped and… (see drawing)
Sometimes everything lines up to mess with you, but some broken rectangles are hardly the end of the world.
A final discussion on the plating of the dish. There were suggestions to plate the fish according to personal preferences, instead of following the restaurant. Wow, shock. Until that point I slavishly followed recipes to the letter. Now you want us to give our own spin to it? Scary. Funny how quick you get used to ‘cooking by the book’ and forget all your own preferences or interpretations. It is in part what makes cooking all the recipes of a cookbook such a challenge, the never-ending precise executions of recipes. Forget freedom.
The finalization of the dish. Foaming action. Laying everything out on paper. Cooking the fish. Deep frying the chips. Warming the fluid gel and finishing with champagne. You know what happened just before plating? The best looking onion rectangle fell on the bin and even more areas were chipped off. You could be pissed off, but it was actually quite funny. Murphy’s Law worked its magic on the onions.
For some reason there were air pockets in the bags and the corners began to float to the surface. A pan held them under water.
In the beginning I said how the name Sole Veronique invokes beauty, lightness and delicateness. This is what we got. After the heavy lasagna a stunning fish course. The onions, fluid gel, grapes, fish and foam are all delicious. The black truffle was a very, very distant background flavor (maybe my black truffle lost some magic in the freezer?) The only thing I was not that keen on were the dried parsley leaves, but it does not help it is one of my least favorite herbs.
As for the chips, they are absolutely amazing. The cooking process is designed to enhance the texture and boy does it improve them. They are super crunchy. You could hear everyone eating the chips, it made that much noise. Think in the lines of this commercial, but than for real. The recipe speaks not of any kind of condiment to the chips. As anyone can learn from one of the opening scenes in Pulp Fiction, we soak them boys in lots mayonnaise. Someone had the brilliant idea to use some of the langoustine oil and we made some with the oil. This completed a very good dish and day.
I could go on about the plate of food, but pictures speak a thousand words.