Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy birthday, Julia Child: Sole Meunière

I know it seems like All Julia All the Time around here lately... I admit, the only thing really keeping me motivated to post on a regular basis at the moment is the Baking with Julia challenge I'm taking part in. And don't worry, it's not that I'm making fantastic meals and just not sharing them... last night I had a deviled egg and a peanut butter and jelly* sandwich for dinner. Seriously. No one wants to read about that train wreck of a meal, trust me. *For what it's worth, the jelly _was_ freshly homemade Concord grape jelly, so at least there's that! ;) 

But today would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday, and I felt it only fitting that this week we have a meal that celebrated her in some way. I chose to make Classic Sole Meunière; a dish I had often heard of but had yet to make, or even try. B is not a huge fan of fish, so I try not to force it on him too often; this time however, he'd just have to deal, I wanted sole, damnit! ;) Julia Child states that her first taste of Sole Meunière upon her arrival in Paris was "an epiphany"... heck, if it blew Julia's culinary socks off, it was worth a try, no?

Sole Meuniere

The ingredient list is extremely short - fish, flour, salt and pepper, butter and lemon with parsley to finish. For a cook, this is both good and bad news. A dish like this is both very easy to prepare, and very easy to screw up. The best advice I can give for this recipe (besides drop what you're doing right now and go make it) is have your mise en place completely 'en place' before you start! It comes together very quickly and having all ingredients (and side dishes) ready to go before you start cooking will greatly increase your chances of success.

I got myself a large sole fillet and cut it into two servings. Definitely go for fresh in this case... the dish highlights the taste and texture of the fish, make sure it's good quality. Luckily even the freshest, fanciest sole won't cost you a fortune... total ingredients for this dish (two servings) cost me less than $10.

Fresh sole fillet
The flour was generously seasoned and set aside with the fish (do not dredge until you're ready to slap it in the pan!). Also ready to go was the lemon juice and chives (I don't care much for parsley so subbed chives from the garden instead... they went great). Contrary to the recipe, I chose to use clarified butter for both the cooking of the fish and the sauce. Clarified butter has the milk solids removed, so it can withstand higher heat without burning. This is a good thing as it gives you buttery flavor directly during cooking instead of having to use oil and adding the butter at the end. If you need some help making clarified butter, David Lebovitz has a good little tutorial on making it.

Liquid gold - clarified butter
Once everything was ready, I heated my skillet and added the clarified butter, then dredged the fish in the seasoned flour and into the pan it went. While the fish cooked on the first side, I got some simple steamed veggies and a bit of crusty french bread ready to accompany the meal. After a few minutes, I turned the fish over carefully and let it finish cooking. Do not wander off when cooking this dish... bad things can happen if you get distracted! :)

Finally, the fish was golden on both sides and starting to flake nicely, so onto the plates it went, along with the steamed veggies and a sprinkle of chives. The remaining butter and the lemon juice went into the pan to heat until sizzling, at which point it was very carefully spooned over the chives/fish. The hot butter will sort of flash fry the chives, helping them release flavor and giving them a nice bit of crispiness. And that's it! Serve with a nice white wine - we had a bottle of Mirassou Riesling. It was sweeter than I normally like white wine, but the sweetness led into a nice acidity at the end that complimented the buttery richness of the fish beautifully well.

Sole meuniere
Happy birthday Julia!

P.S. On the way home, I stopped at a bookstore on a whim, and saw this:


A whole table of books by and about Julia! :) 

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