Sweet and Sour Fish Fillets

Serves 8 as an appetizer, 4-6 as a main course

2 lbs. sole or snapper fillets
about 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for frying, plus 2 Tbs. additional
1 large juicy orange, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 lbs. onions, very thinly sliced (6 cups)
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 anchovies, finely chopped (optional)
1 cup orange juice
1 bay leaf
fresh greens
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Cut the fillet in half lengthwise and, if necessary, remove the thin bony strip that runs through the middle of many fillets. Now cut the fillet into 4-inch pieces.

Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Spread the flour on a sheet of wax paper or a platter and season with salt and pepper. Dredge the fish pieces thoroughly in the seasoned flour, then shake lightly to remove all excess. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large heavy skillet until hot. Cook the fish in batches until nicely golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Choose a casserole or non-reactive baking dish just large enough to accommodate the fish in one layer and line it with the orange slices. Place the fish on top, overlapping the pieces slightly if necessary.

Wipe out all the oil in the skillet, then warm the 2 tablespoons of fresh oil in it. Add the onions and toss until completely coated with the oil. Salt and pepper lightly, cover the pan, and cook slowly over very low heat for 35-40 minutes, until the onions are tender and starting to color. Stir from time to time to make sure the onions don’t burn.

Soak the raisins in the vinegar.

When the onions are very tender, stir in the optional anchovies and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to dissolve them. Add the vinegar with the raisins, the orange juice and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half and onions are caramelized and richly colored, 15-20 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper and remove the bay leaf.

Spread the caramelized onion mixture evenly over the fish. Scatter the toasted pine nuts on top. Wrap well with plastic and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight (even better when served after 48 hours). It will keep very well for at least 4 days.

The fish is best at room temperature, so remove it from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving. Serve on a bed of greens.
(Louise Fiszer)