Today marks the 106th birthday of the legendary Julia Child who, in 1963, charmed and inspired American cooks to try their hand at French cuisine on WGBH Boston’s pioneering television series, The French Chef.
(Image credit: Paul Child/WGBH)
Today would be Julia Child’s 106th birthday and we are celebrating her by cooking one of her favorite recipes—Sole Meuniére.
In her exuberant, jovial style Julia Child made French cooking approachable and, most of all, fun! Julia loved to have fun! The French Chef was one of the first cooking shows on American television and Julia captivated Americans yearning to eat and entertain in the French manner. News of her upcoming birthday prompted me to revisit her book “My Life In France“, which was the impetus for my quest for Sole Meuniére when I first traveled to France.
Julia Child’s First Encounter with Sole Menuiére
Sole Meuniére entered culinary fame as the dish that captured her heart on that first day in Rouen as she and her husband Paul headed to Paris in 1948. Written in Julia’s own words, “My Life In France” begins in the fall of 1948 as she and Paul disembark the SS America in Le Havre and, in humorous and mouthwatering detail, chronicles Julia finding her “true calling”.
Led by Guide Michelin to Restaurant La Couronne in Rouen, Julia describes their first lunch together in France as “absolute perfection” and “the most exciting meal of my life”. Although Rouen is famous for their duck dishes, after consulting with the waiter, Paul orders Sole Meuniére:
It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. 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.
Like Julia, I find Sole Meuniére to be simply divine, so when I’m in France it’s either Sole Meuniére. Or Duck Confit. And copious amounts of foie gras, French cheeses, oysters, fresh baguettes and buerre d’Isigny… To honor her formidable drive and robust spirit, I give you Julia’s classic preparation for Sole Meuniére from her book, The Way to Cook, by Julia Child, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
I have made Sole Meunière at home and substituted Petrale sole. Dover sole may be hard to source, and expensive, but its sweet thin filets are remarkable.
Julia Child’s Sole Meuniére Recipe
The dish that made Julia fall in love with France is deceptively simple and its success lies in the execution. Once you savor the tender, sweet white fish swathed in browned butter and a spritz of lemon, you'll understand the popularity of this classic French dish.
- 4-6 boneless fillets of sole
- 1/2 cup flour
- 5-6 Tablespoons clarified butter
- fresh parsley, chopped
- lemon wedges
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoon capers optional
Lay out and pat dry the fillets. Season with salt and pepper.
Dredge in a light coating of flour, removing excess.
In a skillet on medium-high heat, pour clarified butter in and allow to heat just before browning.
Place fillets in, not overcrowding the pan. About 3-4 in a large skillet. Brown on one side for about 1-2 minutes and flip over to brown other carefully
Remove fish to a platter. Add additional butter for pan sauce, if necessary. Stir in capers, if using. Pour capers and butter pan sauce over the fish fillets.
Garnish with lemon and fresh parsley.
This dish comes together quickly, so measure your ingredients ahead of time. Also, to aid you in perfecting your technique, once the fish is in the pan, don't disturb it for at least a minute. Left alone, it will form a nice, golden crust.
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