It is impossible to think about Sole Meunière without thinking of Julia Child – this is the first dish she ate upon arriving in France, starting her love affair with French cuisine. Lightly dusted with flour and Herbes de Provence, and cooked in olive oil with capers, this Sole Meunière recipe is uncomplicated, takes 10 minutes to cook and is perfect for a weeknight meal.
The geese honked their farewells as they flew over early this morning. Just hearing their call brought back that familiar feeling — the kind that you experience when you smell a familiar scent that pulls you back to a clear memory, distinct and real. There are certain things that trigger nostalgia and rich emotions for me — the scent of a newly opened crayon box, the crisp evening air after rain, the crunch of boots on newly fallen snow, the scent of chestnuts roasting — It’s amazing how easily our memories can come flooding back.
As I heard their honks fade in the distance, it made me realize that we really are in the thick of fall, but I suppose I didn’t need them to remind me. I know it from my calendar, and how each minute of the day is accounted for. The kids are especially committed this year, which means more time for me behind the wheel instead of the stove.
With less time to cook, I need to either find more minutes to the day or quicker recipes to make, and clearly, the latter is the easier of the two. One of our favorite fish recipes is Sole Meunière, a classic French dish that is homey and utterly simple. Dredged in flour and cooked in butter with a generous squeeze of lemon juice, over time, I have lightened our version with more olive oil, and brightening the sauce with capers and a touch of caper juice. Herbes de Provence adds an extra sprinkling of France, and what I love best about this dish is that I can get it on the table in 10 minutes.
This dish reminds me of cuddling with one of my favorite books, My Life in France. Julia Child’s vivid memory of stepping off the ship in Le Havre and driving to find lunch in Rouen and tasting Sole Meunière for the first time, which she described as a “morsel of perfection” is so captivating, you can picture yourself in that rustic home restaurant with her, dizzy with jet lag and wonder. With sheer joy and wonder at such a simple dish — who can resist cooking Sole Meunière and understanding how she fell head over heels in love with La Belle France? I can only imagine how the scent of browned butter and sole evoked such memories for Julia, as it now does for me.
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Sole Meunière is the first dish Julia Child ate in France, starting her love affair with French cuisine. An easy, 10-minute recipe, perfect for weeknights!
- 1 1/2 lb petrale sole or Dover sole
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice half a lemon
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 2 tablespoons caper juice
- 1 tablespoon butter or substitute with more olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Pat the fish dry with paper towels.
In a shallow bowl, whisk together the flour, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Dredge the fish in the flour, tapping off excess flour.
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook the fish for about 2 minutes per side, until the fish is golden brown. Add more olive oil if necessary if the pan dries up. Transfer the fish to a platter and repeat until all the fillets are cooked.
Lower the heat to medium-low. Stir in the lemon juice, capers and caper juice to the pan. Let the sauce bubble, then whisk in the butter (or more olive oil). Pour the sauce over the fish and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999).