The Seduction of Sole Meuniere

July 29, 2010

sole mueniere

I’m coming right out of the gate with an admission. Beware. It’s totally un-french and un-fabulous and if we weren’t hitting it off so well already, I might be too afraid to tell you. I made Sole Meuniere without the Sole. That’s right. Instead, I reached into the fridge and pulled out the only thing I had tucked away — a humble, inexpensive, totally every day variety of fish. Which is to say, I made Sole Meuniere with tilapia.

In France, I imagine I might be executed for this sort of behavior. In America though, I imagine busy people everywhere throwing up their hands and saying, “So what! Be resourceful! I buy my cheese pre-cut and prepackaged!”

This is why I like America.

This might be a good time to admit that I didn’t have any parsley either — which in classic Sole Meuniere is sort of essential. But lets be honest. Parsley is really more about presentation than taste and can you look me right in the computer screen and tell me this piece of fish isn’t pretty stunning?

Sole (or tilapia) Meuniere is made by dredging the fish in flour, pan frying it in butter and then serving it with brown butter sauce and a squeeze of lemon. But just in case you’re not totally impressed yet, I want to detail a certain consequence of combining hot butter with lemon juice on top of a seared piece of fish.

Froth.

I’m talking about a gently bubbling, airy mixture that seizes up on top of the fish when the butter hits the lemon juice. I’m talking about a chemical reaction that occurs naturally and miraculously — without any special equipment or pyrotechnics or fancy tricks of any kind. It’s just delicious froth, baby, and last night in the middle of my kitchen, it was mine for the taking.

I do admit to having a Pavlovian reaction when it comes to the word froth. The way it sounds, the way it rolls off the tongue with an elegant, whimsical melody. You’d be amazed at the way every day tilapia transforms into a glamorous sort of mealtime luxury — as if it were suddenly parading around the kitchen with long eyelashes and a mink coat. It’s somehow brighter, somehow sexier, somehow all jazzed up when lathered in foam and butter and yes, even parsley if you’ve got it.

[print_this]

Sole (or Tilapia) Meuniere

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 pieces white fish, preferably sole
1 stick of butter
Flour, for dredging
1/2 lemon
Handful chopped parsley
Kosher salt

Procedure

Melt a stick of butter in a small pot.

Salt the fish on both sides and dredge in flour. Tap off as much excess flour as you can. Pour some melted butter (about 2 tablespoons) into hot skillet. Sear the fish on high heat for two-three minutes and flip. The fish should be semi-opaque in the center but should still glimmer. Remove the fish from the skillet when ready. Set on serving plate.

Pour the rest of the melted butter in the hot skillet. Cook until butter browns, 2 minutes more.

Pour lemon juice on fish and sprinkle with parsley. Top the fish with some of the melted butter. Magic froth will follow.[/print_this]

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate July 29, 2010 at 7:54 am

Fabulous! It’s been years since I’ve made this. Forgot how great it is.

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Sophia July 29, 2010 at 8:25 am

Wow, I’ve not cooked fish at home in years, except salmon patties. But this post inspires me to make this dish soon. I continue to love your writing style AND your fabulous photographs. I’m book marking this recipe so the pictures will inspire me, too…can give me confidence!

‘Tis no easy feat making meat, let alone FISH with cats in the house. Let the meowing begin!

Look forward to your next post.

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Courtney July 29, 2010 at 8:52 am

Oddly, the smell of fish has never bothered me … though they say if it smells fishy it’s probably not all that fresh. Thanks for the nice words. You can do it!!

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Sara July 29, 2010 at 8:52 am

Sole meuniere is one of my favorites. And I’m sure with tilapia it was still tasty with its frothy lemon-buttery goodness. But no parsley? Gasp! Parsley is probably my single favorite herb flavor! (I am serious. I have a weird predilection for flat-leaf parsley.)

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Courtney July 29, 2010 at 8:53 am

I agree. It was a sin. I still feel guilty!

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Craig Hochscheid July 29, 2010 at 11:18 am

My Wife & I love Sole Meuniere and nice bottle of White Burgundy, it’s one of our favourite dishes. However the price of Dover Sole has gone through the roof, when you can even find it. I had to order it from a purveyor in Manhattan the last time we cooked it at home. We use Lemon or Grey Sole (when we can find a fairly thick fillet) or Fluke (which has a similar texture & taste to Dover Sole) to make meuniere, they all work quite well.

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Courtney July 30, 2010 at 5:51 am

Great tip about the Lemon or Grey Sole!

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Barb July 29, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I”m making this next week. Julia Child would be proud, because you’re just being resourceful. Simple beautiful food. YUM!

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Intuitive Eggplant July 29, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Great post! Looks divine, and love the magic froth!

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Jen July 30, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I suggest you drop “un-fabulous” from your vocab immediately because I haven’t seen anything unfabulous from you yet!

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Jeff August 1, 2010 at 9:44 am

Okay, I’m guilty. I have to admit that I was scanning until I saw the magic words, “Melt a stick of butter.” There is a haiku in there somewhere.

I challenge myself to eat fish periodically to confirm my childhood fear of it. Next time, I’ll do it this way.

Wonderful post as always.

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natural eyelash growth January 14, 2011 at 9:36 am

I love talapia but I just don’t know how to make a great talpia to taste better. i cooked this recipe last night and I am still in love with it.

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