While a picnic for one may sound frightfully lonely in most cases, a picnic for…
stopping to catch my breath and chuckle at the irony of a satirical poster of DeGaulle as Mickey Mouse,
recalling the early morning street protest that stopped traffic along the boulevard during morning rush hour,
a normal day in Paris; organized dissension, self expression awaiting the street sweeper…
it’s so easy to fall back into our mad routine and let the magical times spent away recede into the fog of long-term memory.
I come away from these trips to Paris, pleasure trips for me – business as usual for Don, who, several times a year, resides at the Radisson Blue Hotel Ambassador on Boulevard Haussmann in the city centre near L’Opera Garnier and within walking distance of his office – invigorated, grateful, and with an altered perspective on life in the modern world, the history preceding us, being American, etc. Heavy stuff. But, no philosophical discourse here, let’s move on to the food.
Fortunately, we have the intrepid Muriel, a native Parisian who calls St. Germain home who speaks six languages and orchestrates all the business coming through the Paris office, to also orchestrate where we dine and assist us when our lame attempts at the French language fail completely. With business dinners every night, this is especially important now because of Don’s dietary restrictions and she made sure that the chefs were aware of his sodium allergy. She had told us that Europeans rely less on salt as a flavor enhancer than Americans and I think this is true. J’adore, Muriel! It’s wonderful to know that we have two excellent restaurants nearby that can prepare a delicious classic French dish with no sodium!
Only three blocks away, Au Petite Riche at 25 rue Pelletier, specializes in Loire Valley cuisine along with traditional French fare and an impressive selection of Loire Valley wines. Although I didn’t refer to any reviews before dining there, the Frommer’s review below is accurate and made me smile. Generally, we prefer traditional fare over haute cuisine and loved the old Paris ambiance, service was pleasant and efficient, and the restaurant was bustling with every table in each of the three dining areas occupied by 9:00 p.m. on both evenings (we returned on our last evening so I could try the Dover Sole which I’ve recreated here).
“No, that’s not Flaubert or Balzac walking through the door, but should they miraculously return, the decor of old Paris, with the original gas lamps and time-mellowed paneling, will make them feel at home. This place opened in 1865 as the restaurant associated with the very large and then-solvent Café Riche next door. After Café Riche burned down, the restaurant continued to attract lawyers, set designers, and machinists from the nearby Opéra Garnier, eventually becoming a well-known restaurant. Charles Aznavour is an occasional patron, along with politicians and anyone interested in the nostalgia of La Vieille France. Expect an impressive roster of Loire Valley wines and food that combines Loire Valley classics with traditional French fare. The house is famous for its Gillardeau oysters. Other examples include roasted rack of veal prepared à l’ancienne, a long-standing house special of tartare of beef, roasted whitefish in meat drippings, and seasonal game dishes such as civet of rabbit.”
We each started with an appetizer: David went with the homemade duck foie gras; I, the specialty Gillardeau oysters; Muriel, the rustic lentil salad with lardons, and a fresh green salad with steamed haricot vert for Don. Entrees are pictured above, except for David’s – he wasn’t waiting for the food paparazzi
But let’s get to the recipe – I usually don’t ramble on this long… Don raved about the Dover sole, so I recreated it at home with Petrale Sole from Santa Monica Seafood and a little less butter! They also made him steamed potatoes and carrots, and I did the same – minus the aged cast iron server with the nifty hook on the side where you could put the lid when serving.
Sole with Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce
2 – 8 ounce fillets of Petrale or Dover Sole
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons Star Extra Virgin California olive oil
Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce:
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup good dry white wine
juice from 1 Meyer Lemon
1 tablespoon minced shallots
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1. Combine the vinegar, white wine, and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, add shallots, lower heat and cook until reduced to about 1 1/2 tablespoon.
2. Add two pieces of butter, whisk until it has melted into the sauce. Add each piece of butter, whisking until melted, before adding another. That’s the secret to a smooth sauce – also, do not let the sauce boil or it will separate.
3. Rinse fish, pat dry with paper towels. Place the flour on a plate and lightly coat each side of the fish filets with flour. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, place the fillets in the skillet and cook until a golden brown, about 3 minutes depending on thickness (the petrale sole was thicker than dover sole filets which cook almost instantly). Gently turn with a fish spatula, and brown the other side. Be careful not overcook or the fish will be mushy.
*This recipe is based on one in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck with one major difference – I used 3 tablespoons of butter instead of 3 sticks (24 tablespoons) rendering a more concentrated sauce that highlights the citrus flavors.