I had decided to make fish for dinner this week even before the latest JC100 recipe popped up in my email. Because it had been a while since we had fish at home (I'm not counting the dinners we had that featured frozen fish sticks), I thought fish would provide a welcome change to our typical weekday dinner routine.
Visions of plates of broiled fish with accompanying mixed green salads danced in my head right up until the moment that I read through Julia Child's recipe for Fillets of Sole Meunière. Holy butter! I abandoned the broiled fish idea, jumped straight into Julia's preparation of the fish, and didn't feel an ounce of guilt about it.
Although Julia's recipe calls for sole, with European Dover sole as the ideal fish, it's an extremely expensive option and not readily available in your average supermarket or grocery store. Thankfully, this recipe is versatile, and you can use any number of more affordable types of fish, including flounder (which I used), whiting, and trout. For a different taste and texture, you can use salmon, snapper, or bluefish.
The preparation will be the same no matter which fish you choose. The fillets are prepared à la meunière (from the French for "miller's wife"), which means they're lightly dredged in flour before they're cooked in a pan of melted butter.
Julia recommends using clarified butter to cook the fish rather than regular butter, and I couldn't think of a better reason for trying out my new Emeril® Stainless Steel 1-qt. Saucier, courtesy of JCPenney, than following Julia's advice.
The saucier had plenty of room for the entire stick of butter, and the integrated spout made it easy to pour the clear yellow liquid off. But why all the fuss over what type of butter to use?
According to Julia, clarified butter "browns well, smells wonderful as it cooks, and gives food that unbeatable taste of butter... Plain butter will burn and speckle rapidly because of the milky residue it contains, but when you clarify the butter[,] you rid it of that residue."
Well, that makes perfect sense.
Doesn't that look just gorgeous? Just remember to use unsalted butter, and you'll be good to go.
After I clarified the butter, the rest of the dish came together really quickly. The flounder fillets I used were relatively thin, so I only had to saute them in the butter for about one minute per side. Before we knew it, dinner, which also included sauteed spinach and jasmine rice, was ready!
Fillets of Flounder Meunière
For 6 servings
- 6 skinless and boneless sole or other thin fish fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each and 3/8-inch thick
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup flour in a plate
- About 4 tablespoons clarified butter
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 lemon cut into wedges
- Dust the fillets lightly on each side with salt and pepper.
- The moment before sauteing, rapidly drop each into the flour to coat both sides, and shake off the excess.
- Set [a large non-stick frying pan] over high heat and film with 1/16 inch of clarified butter.
- When the butter is very hot but not browning, rapidly lay in as many fillets as will fit easily, leaving a little space between each. Saute a minute or two on one side, turn carefully so as not to break the fillet, and saute a minute or two on the other side.
- The fish is done when just springy rather than squashy to the touch of your finger. Immediately remove from the pan to warm plates or a platter. (Or, if you're sauteing in 2 batches, keep the first warm for the few minutes necessary in a 200Â°F oven.)
- Sprinkle each fillet with parsley.
- Wipe the frying pan clean, set over high heat, and add the fresh butter; heat until bubbling and pour over the fillets -- the parsley will bubble up nicely.
- Decorate with lemon wedges, and serve at once.
Excerpted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child. Copyright © 1989 by Julia Child. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
For more in The JC100 Series of Julia Child recipes, see:
- Week 1: Rolled Omelette
- Week 2: Chocolate Mousse
- Week 3: Coq au Vin
- Week 4: Niçoise Salad
- Week 5: Vichyssoise
- Week 6: Reine de Saba
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Taste As You Go Disclaimer: I was provided with product samples at no cost to me. I did not accept monetary compensation for writing about these products or about my experiences while using them. All opinions expressed are my own.