Sole meuniere was Julia Child’s first meal in France. Eating it was her epiphany and the beginning of her love affair with French food.
“It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. The waiter carefully placed the platter in front of us, stepped back, and said: ‘Bon appètit!’ 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.”
Sole meuniere is a simple dish. It is just fillet of sole sauteed in a good amount of browned butter. The butter is poured over the fish to serve. With so few ingredients, you can taste the essence of the fish and the butter in each bite. Sole is a mild white fish with a delicate buttery flavor, a fish that can stand up to such simple cooking. Sole meuniere takes less than five minutes to throw together, but the result is as rich and elegant as anything you could order in a fine restaurant.
Note: True Dover Sole, Solea Vulgaris, is shipped to the US from England or Holland. There is, however, another related fish that can be sold as Dover Sole. Microstomas Pacifius is related to Dover Sole but comes from the flounder family and is caught in the Pacific from Baja to the Bering Straits. Unless you are a marine biologist, the only way you will be able tell what you are buying is by the price. When you see “Dover Sole” selling for less than $10 a pound, it is most likely Microstomas Pacifius. Although Solea Vulgaris is a bit thicker and tastes butterier, this “Rolls Royce” of fish sells for three times as much as the Pacific variety. Pacific Dover Sole is maybe a small BMW – very nice, very scrumptious, and much more affordable. There is no shame in that. I bought Microstomas Pacifius at Wholefoods. It was mild and delicate with the sweet buttery taste that makes this dish what it is.
1-1 1/2 lb sole fillets
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. PREP: Preheat oven to 150. Dredge sole in flour seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. Shake off the excess. Heat skillet over MEDIUM HIGH
2. SAUTE: Add butter to the hot skillet. Melt butter until it begins to foam and turn golden. Reduce heat to MEDIUM LOW. Add sole in batches so the fillets cook without touching. Saute 1 1/2 -2 minutes on each side. Carefully remove fillet and place on a baking sheet in oven to keep warm until ready to serve. Serve with the cooking butter and a wedge of lemon on the side.