Turbot was, and remains, perhaps the most prestigious fish dish in the English repertoire. It was served boiled or baked, and was prepared in a fish kettle specifically designed for its distinctive diamond shape, called a turbotière. This recipe is also known as turbot à l’Anglaise, or ‘turbot English fashion’, denoting a simple preparation method, namely gentle poaching. The original recipe suggests serving the fish with a choice of sauces: for the YouTube video we chose a lobster sauce.
It is safest with this recipe to make the sauce in advance, so that you can give your full attention to the fish. Open the lobster and remove the tomalley (the liver: greenish in colour), along with the coral (pinkish when raw, red when cooked), if you are lucky enough to have some. Push both through a sieve, sprinkle with the lemon juice and mix well with the unsalted butter in a bowl. Roll into a sausage shape, wrap in baking parchment or cling film (plastic wrap) and chill until needed.
Now make a roux: melt the salted butter in a saucepan and beat in the flour until they form a soft paste. Pour in the hot stock gradually, beating well between additions, until you have a smooth, velvety sauce. This is known as sauce velouté. Whisk in the cream and keep the sauce hot, but not boiling.
Cut the chilled lobster butter into small slices and add them gradually to the sauce, beating well and heating through. After you have added half the butter, stop and taste – you may find that this is strong enough for you. If you do not use it all, the butter can be kept chilled for up to a week, or you can freeze it for future use for up to 3 months. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Set aside until needed. A layer of cling film pressed directly onto the surface of the sauce will stop a skin from forming.
Now cook the turbot. Start by trimming the fish (or ask the fishmonger to do this for you). Using a sturdy pair of kitchen scissors, cut out and remove the gills, cut off the tail, leaving about 2.5 cm/1 inch of stub, cut off the fins by the head and trim the long fins running around the fish. If the fish is ungutted, make sure to gut it as well. Rub it all over with the juice of 1 lemon.
Slice the remaining lemon and put the slices under the drainer of a turbot kettle. Place the fish on the drainer and lay it in the kettle. Pour over cold water to cover and add a generous handful of salt (some recipes rather poetically suggest that the water should be as salty as the sea). Place the kettle over a medium heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat right down and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes. Remember that the fish will continue to cook when it is removed from the heat.
Just before the turbot is ready, reheat the sauce, being careful not to let it boil. Slide the turbot onto a hot plate and cover it loosely with a clean cotton or linen napkin. Garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon slices and serve immediately, with the sauce on the side.
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