A Taste for Tarragon: Mussel-Stuffed Sole in Tarragon Sauce

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Serves 4 to 6

This dish is elegant company food whose components can be made ahead and assembled quickly just before eating. I sometimes serve it as a first course, with one fillet per person. As a main course, I like it best with boiled or steamed new potatoes, though rice is also a good foil for the flavors.

  • 2 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Small handful fresh tarragon, or 6 to 8 vinegar-preserved tarragon sprigs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1¾ to 2 pounds fillets of sole
  • 12 large spinach leaves, cleaned and ­center ribs and stems removed
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  1. Place the mussels, wine, and a fresh or preserved tarragon sprig in an incorrodible pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add water and steam the mussels about 2 minutes, or just until they open. Remove them from the pan, cool, then remove them from their shells. Reserve the liquid.
  2. Carefully rinse the mussels in the liquid and strain it through fine-weave rinsed cheesecloth in a sieve. Press the cloth to extract all the juices. Toss the mussels with about 2 tablespoons of the strained liquor in a bowl. Reserve the remaining liquor for the sauce. Chop enough tarragon leaves to equal about 2 tablespoons. Mix 1 tablespoon of the chopped tarragon with the mussels and reserve the rest.
  3. Divide the fillets in half lengthwise and trim off any bones or skin. Place a spinach leaf on one of the fillets. Place two mussels on the leaf and roll the fillet around the filling. Salt the fillet lightly and place it on a platter. Fill and roll the remaining fillets. Reserve the extra mussels for the sauce. You may hold the rolled fillets, covered and refrigerated, for several hours.
  4. Make the sauce before cooking the fish. Reduce the reserved broth with the shallots in an incorrodible pan to about 1 cup. Add the cream and reduce to about 1 cup. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. You may hold the sauce, covered and refrigerated, for several hours. When ready to serve, place the sauce in a lidded incorrodible pan large enough to hold the fish. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the fillets and cover and simmer for 6 minutes.
  5. Arrange the fish on a warm platter. Stir the reserved mussels and tarragon and the parsley into the sauce. Drizzle some sauce over the fish and pour the rest around them. Serve immediately.

Carolyn Dille is replanting much of her herb ­garden for the sheer dirt-under-the-fingernails pleasure of it. Culinary and medicinal herbs have been her special interest for many years. Her ­latest books are The Onion Book, with Susan Belsinger (Interweave Press, 1996), and Seasons of the Vineyard, with Robert and Margrit ­Mondavi (Simon and Schuster, 1996).

Click here for more recipes with tarragon from the original article, A Taste for Tarragon.