Soles in Their Coffins

photo 1 (2)When I told you about our new place, did I tell you that we also live near Arsenal’s stadium? That’s a soccer (football) team in case you didn’t know. I was excited because in Arlington, Ryan and I enjoyed going to the Nationals games together, and I thought this would be replace that tradition. But, I found out that tickets are both hard to come by and expensive. Boo. We tried searching for tickets anyway, hoping we could get something for last Tuesday’s game. Nothing. Then, Monday at work, Ryan’s coworker sold us two tickets for a very reasonable price! Ryan’s coworker has season tickets, couldn’t go, and we got so lucky. The game was really fun, even though Arsenal tied. Also the crowd is about 80% men, it was a little surprising! I enjoyed it a lot and I hope we’ll get to go again.

In addition to enjoying our neighborhood, I’m also trying to get back in the kitchen and do some real cooking. One the the best gifts we got from our going away haul, were two British cookbooks. Today, we can get practically any ingredient whenever we want, so it’s hard to know about traditional foods. I feel these cookbooks are giving me some good insight on traditional British cooking. There’s lot of recipes using lamb, pork, and part of the animals I’ve barely considered before. Alternatively, there aren’t many recipes using turkey or poultry. Vegetable recipes use mostly root vegetables, and barely any light leafy greens. These recipes give clues to what would have been available, before everything was available. I love it!

DSCN0948I also love the cookbooks because the recipe names are wonderful and amusing. Here are some examples: Yorshire Fat Rascals (cookies), flummery (custard), bubble and squeak (potatoes and cabbage). It’s so much more delightful than just describing what is in the dish. I love it. The name, soles in their coffins, is part of the reason that I c
hose today’s recipe. The sole, is the type of fish used. And the coffin is a hollowed out baked potato. I find this dish’s name both gruesome and adorable, I think that’s part of the fun. But I also thought the recipe sounded tasty. Seriously, fish, potatoes, and shrimp? That sounds yummy to me. I also wanted to push myself to try more fish recipes, and the technique seemed straight forward enough.  Although all the steps are pretty easy, it is a time consuming recipe. To make it quicker Ryan and I did the whole thing together, and that made cooking even more fun.

This recipe comes from the book Great British Cooking: A Well Kept Secret. This book is adapted for the American kitchen, which is awesome except that I’m an American cook using a British kitchen. So, I like measurements in cups and tablespoons, but Fahrenheit isn’t helpful anymore. More specifically, the recipe writes temperature in Fahrenheit and my oven is Celsius. Needless to say, Ryan and I did some Googling and converting mid cook.  I think after today, I’ll have to start putting both temperatures on the blog to keep my mind straight.

If you’re going to attempt this recipe, my most important recommendation is to trust your eye on how much to buy. The original recipe calls for 8 small sole fillets and 4 baking potatoes. When I saw the size of the available potatoes, compared to the size of the sole fillets, I knew that wouldn’t work. I went with three sole fillets, and 4 potatoes. The biggest fillet was cut in half and fit nicely in the two smallest potatoes. While at the grocery store, use your judgement on what will fit best. Ok, that’s enough direction. Let’s get cooking.


4 baking potatoes

3-4 sole fillets

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cups white wine

4 tbsp butter

1/3 cup flour

2 cups mushrooms, sliced lengthwise

1 cup peeled and uncooked shrimp



butter & milk for seasoning potatoes


1. Heat oven to 425°.

2. Scrub the potatoes clean. Use a fork and poke a few wholes into the potato. Put the potatoes directly onto the oven rack, or on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife pokes through with no resistance. (I took this picture because I was so excited to have an oven light. The oven in Arlington did not have a light)

photo 2

3. While the potato is baking, chop the onion.

4. In a small roasting pan, or oven proof dish, roll the sole fillets (like you’re rolling up a carpet). Pour the wine and onions over the fish. Season with salt and pepper. Cover loosely with aluminum foil.



5. When the potatoes are finished, take them out and set them aside to cool. Keep the oven door slightly ajar for a few minutes to let some heat out. Reset the oven to 350°.

6. Put the fish in the oven for 8 minutes. If you’re worried your oven is too hot, take it out a little earlier. You don’t want the fish to be overcooked.

7. While the fish is cooking, chop the mushrooms. Also, take the potatoes and cut a slice off lengthwise. This is the lid to your coffin. Use a spoon and hollow out your baked potatoes. Set the insides in a bowl to use later.


8. Take the fish out of the oven. Turn the heat up to 400°. Carefully remove the fish from the pan. Keep the cooking liquid, but strain out the onions.

9. In a saucepan, melt the 4 tbsp of butter. Then add the flour and cook for two minutes. Gradually add the strained wine cooking liquid. Stir until you get a light-colored creamy sauce (you might not need all the liquid). Taste. Season with salt and pepper if desired (Be careful! I didn’t realize my pepper opened two ways, one way with small holes and one with large. I accidentally opened the large size and dumped so much pepper in I practically ruined the sauce!)

10. While you’re making the sauce, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, then add the shrimp. Cook until they just turn pink. Remove from heat.

12. Put the potato coffins in your roasting pan. Spoon a bit of sauce into the bottom of a hollowed out potato. Then place a fish fillet inside. Spoon a bit more sauce on top. Then spoon the shrimp and mushrooms on top of that. If you like the sauce, you can pour lots more sauce on and smother the whole thing. Finally put the potato lid on top.

13. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes. While this is cooking, mash the potato insides. Gradually add milk, butter, and salt until the mashed potatoes are to your liking.


14. Remove from the oven. Place a coffin and a dollop of mashed potatoes on your plate. Serve!


4 spoonMessy level: 4 spoons. This has a lot of steps, and requires a lot of spoons, pots, and finesse. The maneuvering between steps isn’t hard, but we made a mess straining the wine sauce, stirring the flour sauce, and all the pouring that has to be done. Also, hollowing a potato and stuffing it with a sole fillet makes for some gooey fingers.


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