French Cooking Friday: Artichoke Soufflé and Parisian Sole

This week's French menu might have turned me into a fish person. I'm not shy to talk about my lack of interest in seafood but once in a while I taste a dish that is so spectacular, it makes me rethink my stance. I also branched into the world of savory soufflés this week. I made a chocolate soufflé once but it ended up a dense, rich cake. I don't know much about baking but I know that soufflés are supposed to be light and airy. In the end, this meal was light and perfect for spring or summer. Sole is a popular fish you can find throughout Europe and probably the coastal United States. It was my first time working with it, my first time actually eating it too, so I have a few tips to share.

STARTER: Artichoke Soufflé
Artichoke and soufflé are two words you wouldn't expect together. Savory and soufflé are two words you wouldn't expect together but Mimi has blown my mind once again. I feel a theme coming on. I still do not prefer working with artichokes. They are difficult and confusing but I managed to get it right this time around. After a very long soak in a boiling bath, the artichokes hearts are mashed and pureed before being added to the batter for the soufflé. Gruyère Cheese adds a nice cheesy, salty touch. There's a lot of careful whisking involved and then the soufflé is poured into individual ramekins for baking. 

I do not own individual-sized ramekins so I bought pot pie pans at the grocery store. In hindsight, this is probably a large part of the reason my soufflés fell (spoiler alert). When I took the soufflés out of the oven, they were beautiful. Puffy, tall and gorgeous. I set them on the table for less than five minutes and they fell. Sunk in. Deflated like all that work was for nothing. It didn't hurt the end result though because they were delicious. I might be more of a fan of savory soufflés than sweet. Because they fell, they were a bit more dense than I think they were supposed to be but not significantly so. It was a pleasant change of pace.

MAIN COURSE: Parisian Sole
Sole is a simple and traditional dish you can find all over France. I remember seeing it on menus a lot when I was in Paris. It's a light and decadent fillet with a mild flavor. For this particular recipe, it was accompanied with a cream sauce. Now remember, a little bit of sauce goes a long way so there's no reason to drown your fish in the creamy richness. My cream sauce didn't turn out quite as, well, creamy compared to Mimi's photos. I must have gone wrong somewhere in halving the recipe. I also became quick to learn about the sole fillet.

It is incredibly tender. I'm talking so tender that it fell apart while I tried to flip it. I started out with a standard pair of tongs and moved on to a large spatula to avoid massacring the fish. I won't complain too much because this tenderness led to a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth experience. It's a decadent fillet and surprisingly salty so leave out any additional salt. Pair it with a simple vegetable like a quick-boiled fresh-cut green bean and you're good to go. 

My favorite part of cooking through books like A Kitchen In France or The Tucci Cookbook is that it's not only a lesson in food but also a lesson in culture. I just finished reading Lunch In Paris by Elizabeth Bard and between her and Mimi, I've begun to understand so much more about French food and the lifestyle. It makes me want to adapt some of it for myself. For example, it's ok to take an extra long lunch and eat it slow because, why not? You deserve it. And sometimes the most decadent meals lie in their simplicity. There was no dessert this week because I'm waiting for a few ingredients to arrive but we will have two next week. Until then, bon appétit!