Even though I work from home, there are still days when I find it inexplicably difficult to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. Of course, you must realize that, having a child who wakes up at negative zero o’clock in the morning, we also have a child who must go to bed quite early in the evening, which means that our reasonable dinner time tends to occur at an hour when the only other people even considering a meal happen to be 80 years-old or, well, babies.
We are not, as you might have guessed, frozen pizza sort of people (and if you are a frozen pizza sort of person, please know that I hold no judgment against you), so when I need to get a meal on the table fast, I tend to look towards foods that are, on a basic level, fast cookers. Sole, delicate as it is, falls wonderfully into this category.
You may think that because this meal appears to use a great deal of dishes that means it is complicated or fussy. Not the case. The majority of the dishes used are plain old dinner plates, which can be rinsed off and dried in seconds flat, or, even easier, simply thrown in the dishwasher. There is no real measuring involved, and no special tools. The fish cooks in one pan, and it cooks for quite literally just a minute on each side until it is done. Cooking frozen fish sticks in an oven takes longer to prepare than this meal, and I guarantee you these sole fillets are about a thousand time better than any frozen fish stick you’ll ever meet.
Most convenient of all, however, is the fact that both kids and adults love this meal. A crispy fillet of panko-crusted sole, slices of avocado, and carrot sticks is a well-appreciated meal for the 5-and-under set. For a more adult-centric presentation, I place the sole fillets on a pile of greens, slice up some tomatoes and avocados, then drizzle on a simple vinaigrette (one part balsamic vinegar to two parts olive oil, whisked with a fork until thick and then seasoned with salt and pepper). We’re sitting at the table in twenty minutes, tops. The food, fresh and crunchy, disappears even faster.
1 pound thin sole fillets
roughly 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
about 2 cups panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper
Set three large dinner plates in a row. Put the flour on the first plate, and season the flour with a generous amount of salt and pepper. On the second plate, beat the eggs, and put half of the panko on the third plate.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat (I use a cast iron skillet, but nonstick would also work). Coat the pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil (slightly more if you are using a very big pan) and heat until it is almost shimmering. Take a sole fillet, lightly dip it on both sides in the plate of flour, shake off any excess flour, then wet both sides of the fillet in the beaten egg. Dip both sides of the fillet in the panko, then place the coated filet in the hot pan. The oil should be hot enough that your sole sizzles when it hits the pan, but you should not see any plumes of smoke. Repeat with another fillet. Depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to cook in batches of 2 or 3 fillets at once. Cook each fillet for 1 minute on each side. Sole is very delicate and thin, so it needs to cook for hardly any time at all until it is done. Heat up one tablespoon more oil in between each batch.
If your cooking pan is littered with a lot of panko crumbs, wipe it out with a paper towel in between cooking each batch of fish, before you add more olive oil. When you have used up most of the panko on the third plate, add the remainder of the panko to the plate and proceed (adding all the panko at once can sometimes cause it to clump after repeated fillet dippings).
When each sole fillet is done cooking, place it on a wire rack until you are ready to serve.
Serve sole with sliced vegetables, or on top of a salad, with lemon wedges for squeezing.