Julia Child's sole meuniere
The dish that set Julia Child on her culinary path was a sole meunière tasted in Rouen, France. Its perfection lies in its simplicity and should be a staple in every home cook's repertoire.
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At my corner market there was no sole, but there was a nice piece of local cod, which doesn't turn up too often because of heavy fishing regulations. I set out several aluminum pie tins to flour and bread the fish (Julia says she keeps several on hand for this kind of thing) and pulled out my homemade breadcrumbs from the freezer. I decided to steam colorful baby potatoes and heat up frozen succotash I had on hand to go along with it.Skip to next paragraph
Kendra Nordin is a staff editor and writer for the weekly print edition of the Monitor. She also produces Stir It Up!, a recipe blog for CSMonitor.com.
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I clarified some unsalted butter (also known as ghee), Julia recommends this, and it only takes minutes. Simply heat tablespoons of butter in a saucepan until it boils, and let it boil away until it stops crackling. The point here is to get rid of excess moisture in order to deepen the buttery flavor. Once it has stopped crackling, pour the melted butter through a tea strainer or cheese cloth into a ramekin. Clarified butter will keep for several months in the refrigerator.
I also took the extra step in breading the fish, which isn't called for in the recipe but is another suggested step in "The Way to Cook." To do this, after you dip the filets in flour, shake off the excess and then quickly dip into an egg beaten with a little oil, and then into about a 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs. Be sure to add the coating only moments before you are going to add the filets to the pan, or the breading will get mushy. I forgot to pick up fresh parsley, but I decided to try capers. Up to this point, I haven't really cared for capers. This dish changed my mind.
One or 2 minutes on each side, and my sole (cod) meunière was ready. I took a bite – wow. The hurried pace of my day slowed down and I focused in right where I was. Buttery and light, the crispy outer layer gave way to a delicate fish that was, for once, not overcooked. If I could be impressed by sole meunière in a tiny Boston apartment at my first attempt, I can only glimpse what Julia must have experienced all those years ago during an afternoon in Rouen.
From "The Way to Cook," by Julia Child
4 to 6 skinless, boneless filets of sole
1/2 cup flour
5 to 6 tablespoons of clarified butter
Fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons capers (optional)
1. Layout and pat dry the fillets. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Dredge in a light coating of flour, brushing off excess with your fingers.
3. In a skillet on medium-high heat, pour in clarified butter and heat until just before browning.
4. Place filets in the pan, without overcrowding, about 3 to 4 a skillet. Brown on one side about 1 to 2 minutes, and carefully flip over to brown the other side.
5. Remove fish to platter, and if using, add capers to butter and heat for a minute. Pour capers and butter over fish.
6. Garnish with lemon and fresh parsley. Serve.
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