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By Eliza Acton (1845)
(Click here for 300 Classic Seafood Recipes from 1747 to 2003)

The word fillet, whether applied to fish, poultry, game, or butcher's meat, means simply the flesh of either (or of certain portions of it), raised clear from the bones in a handsome form, and divided or not, as the manner in which it is to be served may require. It is an elegant mode of dressing various kinds of fish, and even those which are not the most highly esteemed, afford an excellent dish when thus prepared. Soles to be filletted with advantage should be large; the flesh may then be divided down the middle of the back, next, separated from the fins, and with a very sharp knife raised clear from the bones.* When thus prepared, the fillets may be divided, tnmmed into a good form, egged, covered with fine crumbs, fried in the usual way, and served with the same sauces as the whole fish; or each fillet may be rolled up, in its entire length, if very small, or after being once divided if large, and fastened with a slight twine, or a short thin skewer; then egged, crumbed, and fried in plenty of boiling lard; or merely well floured and fried from eight to ten minutes. When the fish are not very large, they are sometimes boned without being parted in the middle, and each side is rolled from the tail to the head, after being first spread with pounded shrimps mixed with a third of their volume of butter, a few bread-crumbs, and a high seasoning of mace and cayenne; or with pounded lobster mixed with a large portion of the coral, and the same seasoning, and proportion of butter as the shrimps; then laid into a dish, with the ingredients directed for the soles au plat; well covered with crumbs of bread and clarified butter, and baked from twelve to sixteen minutes, or until the crumbs are coloured to a fine brown in a moderate oven.

The fillets may likewise be cut into small strips or squares of uniform size, lightly dredged with pepper or cayenne, salt and flour, and fried in butter over a brisk fire; then well drained, and sauced with a good bechamel, flavoured with a teaspoonful of minced parsley.

Clarify from two to three ounces of fresh butter, and pour it into the dish in which the fish are to be served; add to it a little salt, some cayenne, a teaspoonful of essence of anchovies, and from one to two glasses of sherry, or of any other dry white wine; lay in a couple of fine soles which have been well cleaned and wiped very dry, strew over them a thick layer of fine bread-crumbs, moisten them with clarified butter, set the dish into a moderate oven, and bake the fish for a quarter of an hour. A layer of shrimps placed between the soles is a great improvement; and we would also recommend a little lemon-juice to be mixed with the sauce.

Baked, 15 minutes.

* A celebrated French cook gives the following instructions for raising these fillets. — "Take them up by running your knife first between the bones and the flesh, then between the skin and the fillet; by leaning pretty hard on the table they will come off very neatly."

Obs. — The soles are, we think, better without the wine in this receipt. They require but a small portion of liquid, which might be supplied by a little additional butter, a spoonful of water or pale gravy, the lemon-juice, and store-sauce. Minced parsley may be mixed with the bread-crumbs when it is liked.

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