Dine In: Sole Meunière

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Leave it to the damn French to turn something relatively healthy into something cooked in butter and sauced with even more butter. But oh so délicieuse.

The days leading up to the house getting cleaned, I will usually make the really messy stuff. The kind of cooking that turns my stovetop into one fit for a greasy diner.

Sole Meunière does exactly that. This classic French dish seems basic enough: filets of Dover Sole, flour, salt/pepper, parsley, some oil and butter. But (there is always a “but,” isn’t there?) the simplicity of the ingredients do not indicate the somewhat tricky nature of this dish. You need to prepare everything ahead of time, to move fast, to watch it cook. Or else you might have what I had the first time I attempted it; although it still tasted fabulous, it was a hot mess (a hotter mess than Lindsay Lohan, even).

This is also assuming you’ve got one or two side dishes going as well. I usually opt for the easy stuff, like couscous and a steamed pile of baby carrots, broccoli or green beans. Then I can concentrate all my brain power and arm movements on the sole.

Have everything for the sauce ready, in small bowls within reach of the stove. The French call this mise en place, and damn them again, they are so right. The phrase means “putting in place,” and staging the ingredients beforehand makes execution quick and easy.

Also watch the butter closely. Browned butter is nutty and delicate in flavor; you go a few seconds past that and you will have a dark, weird-tasting concoction that will ruin your awaiting fish.

Classic Sole Meunière

1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 sole fillets (each about 3 to 4 ounces)
Coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Lemon wedges

FISH

Place flour in pie dish. Rinse fish; pat with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of fish with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Dredge fish on both sides with flour; shake off excess. Place on platter.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot and shimmers. Add butter; quickly swirl skillet to coat. When foam subsides, add fish and cook until golden on bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully turn fish over and cook until opaque in center and golden on bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide fish between 2 warmed plates; tent with foil. Pour off drippings from skillet; wipe with paper towels.

SAUCE

Place skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter; cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in parsley and lemon juice (sauce may sputter). Spoon sauce over fish. Serve with lemon wedges.

My kids love this dish. They thank me for making it in the same way they thank me when I bake cookies. I joke not.

Recipe from Bon Appetit.

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