Sole à la Meunière is a simple exquisite dish that has been made in France for hundreds of years, but may be best known as the first meal Julia Child had when she arrived on her first trip to France. French cooking gets a bad rap of being difficult and only for the top level cooks, but the basis of French cuisine is actually all about using the best ingredients in season and a few simple techniques. Sole à la Meunière is one of the most simple and easy recipes in all of French cuisine that you can make,
68 years to the day that I made my 3rd trip to Paris, Julia also arrived on the French soil at Honfleur in Northern France. In 1948 Julia and her husband Paul on assignment for the OSS took a ship across the Atlantic with Paris as their destination that would change her life. Making there way towards Paris they stopped at La Couronne in Rouen where she would have a meal that would forge her entire future in just a few bites that would render her speechless.
In her book, My Life in France, a book that also was the final nail in the coffin of my love of France she said:
Rouen is famous for it's duck dishes, but after consulting he waiter Paul had decided to order the Sole à la Meunière . It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce and sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. The waiter carefully placed the platter in front of us, stepped back and said "Bon Appetit!" I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection.
After the meal Julia and Paul "floated out the door into the brilliant sunshine and cool air. Our first lunch in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life"
Later Julia would go onto writing a cookbook that would bring the amazing cuisine of France into every American kitchen and the rest is as we say history. The funny thing is that a dish that left such a huge impression on her is not included in Mastering the Art of French Cooking 1 or even 2. She didn't include it until her 1989 A Way to Cook was released, 28 years after MAOFC was released.
So here it is, you can make this in minutes with only a few ingredients.
4 Dover sole filets, or any other thin firm fish, tilapia also works
fresh ground pepper & salt
Flour for dredging
4 tablespoons clarified butter (melt a stick of butter in a saucepan then with a fine mesh strainer separate the clear butter from the solid and set aside)
2 tablespoons minced parsley
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pat dry the fish, season with salt & pepper and dredge in flour, shaking any excess flour off. In a sauté pan, heat 2 Tablespoons clarified butter, when bubbling add fish. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until lightly golden brown and the fish spring back when touching. Remove from pan and melt unsalted butter in pan until melted and bubbling.
Plate the fish and sprinkle with parsley and then pour some of the melted butter goodness over the filet. Serve with a glass of perfect white French wine such as Pouilly-Fume and enjoy.
And don't worry about all that amazing butter, you only live once and wouldn't you rather have a life of amazing French food and wine sitting in a perfect Paris bistro watching the world go by with no other thought in the world than that amazing food in front of you? I know I would and 52 days to Paris.