Sole Meunière from the Incomparable Julia Child

basting a piece of sole with butter in a cast iron pan

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

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.

Close up view of fresh flounder on gray slate background

Fresh organic butter and knife on a wooden board.

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 meuniere julia child recipe - piece of sole being basted with butter in a cast iron skillet

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.


Looking for more great ways to cook sole fillets? Try adding some fish seasoning for a delicious flavor boost.

More Classic Julia Child Recipes…

21 thoughts on “Sole Meunière from the Incomparable Julia Child

  1. Mary McCoy says:

    I am enjoying all your recipes & photos. Have you purchased a lot of new equipment to make the recipes?

    • Laura Leigh Goyer says:

      Glad to hear you’re enjoying the JC100 posts! One of the great things about Julia’s recipes is that, for the most part, they use just a few simple ingredients and everyday equipment. I did buy my lovely charlotte pan, but other than that, nothing new. Thanks for stopping by Mary 🙂

  2. Trish Worth says:

    The fish looks so yummy. And you’ve taught me something – I have a 12 inch frypan and an 8 inch burner. Now I understand why stuff doesn’t brown properly. Thanks for cooking this fish, Laura.

    • Laura Leigh Goyer says:

      Thanks Trish! I’ve done it too, usually because I didn’t have enough 12 inch burners free. My next stove will have 3 large burners and 1 small instead of 2 and 2, or better yet, it’ll be gas. 🙂

    • Laura Leigh Goyer says:

      Thanks Helene. This recipe was almost as fast and simple as L’Omelette Roulee from week one. I had to keep up the pace with the photos too since the longer this dish sits the less appealing it looks. Hope you give it a go. I’d love to see how someone with your talent would style it!

  3. Ken Rivard says:

    Your sole looks exquisite. I’d eat it in a heartbeat. And GREAT photos!

    I’m of two minds about the trouble-shooting tips issue. It most often comes up for me with a simple technique that is, paradoxically, difficult to describe, the sort of stuff that can easily be taught in person but is more challenging to bring off in print. Getting risotto to the right texture, whisking mayonnaise, sautéing fish–I guess I come down on the side of knowing the possible pitfalls (and their solutions) and THEN plunging ahead, rather than plunging ahead, screwing up, and then having to figure things out myself. It took me weeks of trial and error–and a lot of doorstop loaves of bread– before I finally figured out what a properly active sourdough culture looked like. Unfortunately that last step stops too many timid cooks in their tracks. Still, you’re right, knowing about the possible things that can go wrong can frighten people too.

    • Laura Leigh Goyer says:

      Thanks Ken! I’ll take that as a huge compliment!

      I made this recipe about 6 months ago and it didn’t turn out nearly as well, but the problem wasn’t something Julia addressed in her troubleshooting tips. The first time I just melted the fresh butter and poured it over the fillets instead of waiting for it to become brown and nutty and fabulous. Come to think of it, I should have added that tip to my post!

      Now about that sourdough starter….I’m dying to know what those last steps are (or am I?) I went searching your blog, eagerly anticipating some glorious photos of doorstop loaves of bread, but no such luck 🙂

  4. chezbonnefemme says:

    Divine! Don’t you love it in the movie when she’s eating the Sole Meuniere and can’t put it into words how great it is, and Paul just says, “I know, I know!” My husband and I have those moments ALL OVER FRANCE!

    • Laura Leigh Goyer says:

      Lucky you! I know 17 days in Paris doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the culinary wonder that is France, and I can’t wait to go back. Lyon, Provence, Normany…where to begin?

      Julie/Julia is one of those rare movies that I actually liked more than the book.

      Cheers,
      Laura

  5. Christabel says:

    That looks absolutely divine! And extremely simple to make.
    It’s funny that I stumbled upon your blog a couple of days after Julie/Julia – it’s one of my favorite movies! Among many things, it inspired me to start blogging about food : )

    • Laura Leigh Goyer says:

      Thanks Christabel! I just watched Julie/Julia again over the holidays and was struck by just how much blogs have changed since Julie Powell was cooking her way through MTAFC and blogging about it. She didn’t take pictures of her food or include media in her posts, whereas today, it would be a rare thing to see a food blog without photos.

      And speaking of photos, yours are fantastic! I really enjoyed browsing through them on The Fat Camel.

      Thanks for stopping by.
      Laura

    • The Culinary Travel Guide says:

      Hi Nik – Sole meunière is traditionally served with boiled baby potatoes tossed with butter and parsley. I side of steamed green beans would also be a nice addition to this elegant meal. And don’t forget the white wine!

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