06 August 2009

Ciro & Sal’s Cookbook

Ciro and Sal’s was a Provincetown tradition. (Well, it still is but more about that later.) A tradition of the old Provincetown of artists and writers and fishermen. A place where the guy sitting next you might just have a Pulitzer Prize on his desk as a paperweight. The restaurant is down the Kiley Court alley, with dark wood and low ceilings. The first time I ate there I was in the oldest part of the restaurant, the cellar. In the beginning the floor was dirt, but was paved in the 1950’s for Sal’s wedding. The restaurant expanded into the house next door and the one across the street and in the 70’s there was a gourmet specialty shop. In 1971 a young man who worked there, but failed to return the next season. He had become a “star” for John Water’s and was now known as Divine. With all the going on around Ciro and Sal’s one thing remained constant, the food was extraordinary.

For a time in the 80’s my friend, Alan, worked as a cook at Ciro & Sal’s. When the cookbook came out, it was a must have. I do admit, I am not the best fish cook. I can’t always “visualize” fish in the way I can game or fowl. The Ciro & Sal’s Cookbook has several fish recipes that I would not make under any circumstances. One of those recipes was Sogliola di Nozze, a poached fish in tarragon and sour cream. The recipe on the page sounded appalling and I just didn’t get it. Then one night, years later, Alan’s sister, Barbara cooked it for me. It was one of those dished that was flat on the page but came to life beautifully. It is one of the easiest and most wonderful fish dishes I have ever made and it is now an absolute favorite. Serve it with a plain rice.

Sogliola di Nozze
Poached Sole with Tarragon and Sour Cream Sauce

1/3 cup clarified butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
Juice of I lemon
4 10-ounce sole or flounder filets
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature, and whipped to a more liquid consistency
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Heat the butter in a skillet. Add the wine, lemon juice, fish and tarragon. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cover the pan and poach the fish over low heat just until the fish becomes opaque.
Transfer the fish to a warm serving dish, Return the liquid in the skillet to a boil and whisk in the sour cream and chives. If necessary ass more salt and pepper. Pout the sauce over the fillets and serve immediately.

You can just hear the waves crashing on the dunes. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Barbara for making this fish for me. Thanks Barb.

In 2000, it looked like the end for Ciro & Sal's, but long time employee, Larry Luster, was able to purchase the restaurant and keep the venerable institution open. Even Alan came back to help out the kitchen staff.

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