Julia Child’s Sole Meunière

Julia’s classic recipe for sole meunière with butter, lemon, and parsley.

Cuisine

French

Chef

Julia Child

Makes

6 servings

Serve With

Steamed potatoes

Introduction

About this Recipe

The first time Julia Child ate sole meunière was in 1948 in Rouen, France where the maître d’hótel at La Couronne would have most likely prepared it for her table-side.

Rumour has it this is the dish that transformed her from a person who simply loved to eat into someone who loved to cook. One could even argue that the culinary world is a better place because of sole meunière.

This recipe is excerpted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child. Copyright © 1989 by Julia Child. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Ingredients

  • 6 skinless and boneless sole or other thin fish fillets (best choices are Dover sole, tray sole, flounder, whiting, and trout), all of a size, 4 to 6 ounces each and 3/8 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup or so flour on a plate
  • About 4 Tbsp clarified butter
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 4 to 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Step by Step Instructions

Special Equipment:
  • 2 heavy non-stick frying pans would be useful, to hold all the fish at once; hot plates or a hot platter; a wide plastic spatula.
Sautéing
  • Pat the fish dry. Dust the fillets lightly on each side with salt and pepper. The moment before sautéing, rapidly drop each into the flour to coat both sides and shake off the excess.
  • Set the frying pans or pan over high heat and film with 1/16 inch of clarified butter. When the butter is very hot but not browning, rapidly lay in as many fillets as will fit easily, leaving a little space between each.
  • Sauté a minute or two on one side, turn carefully so as not to break the fillet, and sauté a minute or two on the other side.
  • The fish is done when just springy rather than squashy to the touch of your finger. Immediately remove from the pan to warm plates or a platter. (Or, if you are sautéing in 2 batches, keep the first warm for the few minutes necessary in a 200 F oven.)
Sauce and serving:
  • Sprinkle each fillet with parsley. Wipe the frying pan clean, set over high heat, and add the fresh butter; heat until bubbling and pour over the fillets – the parsley will bubble up nicely. Decorate with lemon wedges, and serve at once.
Clarified Butter

There is no substitute for the taste of butter in good cooking, especially when you are sautéing delicate foods like chicken breasts, or fillets of sole, or when you are making croutons. Plain butter will burn and speckle rapidly because of the milky residue it contains, but when you clarify the butter you rid it of that residue.

The simple system is to melt the butter and pour the clear yellow liquid off the residue.

The more thorough professional system is to cut the butter into smallish pieces for quick melting. Bring it to the slow boil in a fairly roomy saucepan, listening and watching for several minutes until its crackling and bubbling almost cease, indicating the milky liquid has evaporated and the clarification is complete. (At this point watch that the butter does not burn and darken.) Pour the clear yellow butter through a tea strainer into a preserving jar. It will turn yellowish white when cold and congealed and will keep for months in the refrigerator or freezer.

Sole Meunière Recipe Tips

What to Serve with Sole Meunière

The classic side dish with sole meunière is pommes vapeur; steamed new potatoes tossed with butter and parsley.

If you want to practice your French culinary skills try your hand at ‘turning’ the potatoes before steaming. A  ‘turned’ vegetable is barrel-shaped with seven sides and is evenly pointed at both ends. Doing so will shape the potatoes to exactly the same size to ensure even cooking while being aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Round out the meal with roasted asparagus or steamed green beans.

Troubleshooting

You may have crowded too many fillets in the pan, and there was no room for browning – the fish steamed. Or perhaps the butter was not hot enough. Or your pan was too light in weight; it did not conduct and spread the heat. Or the pan might have been too big for the heat source. A 12-inch frying pan cannot heat up all over on an 8-inch burner.