Today, you'll find versions of this dish in France both at fancy restaurants and at bistros; this is our version, perfect for casual family dining or high-end entertaining.
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk (including the leaves), coarsely chopped
6 parsley stems
4 thyme sprigs
fennel sprigs from 1 bulb
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
6 coriander seeds
1 cup white wine
3 cups water
1 small cabbage, cut into thin strips (about 6 cups )
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, cold and cut in small pieces
6 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 small tomato, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
3 pounds skinless skate fillets
flour for coating skate (instant flour works well)
1/4 cup clarified butter plus additional if cooking skate in batches
3 shallots, chopped
1. Place onions, carrots, and celery in a large piece of cheesecloth and tie up tightly. Make a second bundle in cheesecloth: tie up parsley, thyme, fennel, peppercorns, bay leaves, and coriander.
2. Place the vegetable and herb bundles in a large saucepan, and add the wine and water. Bring to a boil, covered, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cabbage, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain liquid from pan, reserving 2 cups. Remove and discard vegetable and herb bundles. Keep cabbage, covered, in pan and set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, boil the reserved liquid until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup, measuring frequently for accuracy. Turn off heat, and whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking until the butter is completely dissolved. (The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.)
4. Add 6 tablespoons of the sauce to the cabbage and gently reheat the cabbage over very low heat. Add 2 teaspoons of the sherry vinegar to cabbage, mix well, and set aside. To the sauce add the tomato, capers, remaining 4 teaspoons of sherry vinegar, and salt and pepper. Keep warm over very low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the sauce is not separating.
5. Season the skate generously with salt and pepper and coat lightly in the flour. In a large skillet heat the clarified butter over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the shallots and cook until translucent. Add skate and sauté, in batches and adding additional clarified butter if necessary, until golden and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
6. Divide the cabbage among 4 dinner plates, and arrange the skate fillets carefully on top. Spoon the sauce over and around the skate, and serve immediately.
The traditional sauce to serve with skate is browned butter. But in the eighties, fashionable restaurants in France -- led by L'Ambroisie in Paris, which now has 3 stars -- began serving skate with cabbage and with a buttery sauce enlivened by sherry vinegar. Today, you'll find versions of this dish in France both at fancy restaurants and at bistros; this is our version, perfect for casual family dining or high-end entertaining. Serves 4