Sole Meunière

Sole Meunière is a classical French dish. Its name makes allusion to the “miller’s wife” in reference to the thin layer of flour that coats the fish. It consists of golden Sole fillets with a buttery lemon sauce finished with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a lemon wedge on the side for more sunny notes. 

It is a simple dish but two steps are very important:
The mise en place (or prepping) is crucial because everything has to be ready and set up properly before cooking the sole fillets.
Having a silky sauce without burning the butter.

It is crucial to flour the fish fillets at the last minute in order to have a nice thin crust when searing. If you coat the fish in advance, the flour will get “wet” and you’ll end up with a mushy layer (and no one wants that!!).

This recipe requires two different types of “butter”. The clarified butter for searing the sole fillets and regular butter for the sauce. The main advantage of the clarified butter is its high smoke point; it won’t burn while you are searing the fish. The regular one is needed for the sauce because of its rich flavor and silky texture. 

*Clarified butter: is unsalted butter that has been slowly melted to separate the milk solids from the fat and to evaporate most of the water. It is like breaking down the main components of the butter. Discard the milk solids: the white residue on the bottom of the pan (that burn when exposed to high heat) and keep the remaining gold liquid: Clarified Butter. This golden fat has now a higher “smoke point”. It is used in different cuisines around the world but also in this Sole Meunière recipe, when baking Baklava etc… It is less rich and flavorful than regular butter. You can make your own clarified butter or buy it in jars from the supermarket.

The Sole Meunière sauce is based on “beurre noisette” referring to the color (brown) and nutty flavors (noisette = hazelnut) of melted butter. After trying multiple versions and burning the sauce (an undisclosed) number of times, I discovered a nice trick in one of Joel Robuchon’s books. Divide the amount of butter in two, add the melted and lightly browned amount on the room temperature one, whisk gently, and “voila!” you have a silky buttery nutty lightly browned sauce. It’s foolproof. Merci Joel!

If you’re not lucky enough to find fresh Sole, Julia Child said it was ok to use flounder :) Choose any fresh fish that is flat and won’t fall apart when searing and flipping it in the pan.

Bon appétit!


Sole Meunière

recipe credits: Rafaella Sargi
Serves 4

½ cup all purpose flour
4 Sole fillets (or Dover Sole, or Flounder)
Black Pepper
3 tablespoons clarified butter*
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in two
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons toasted almonds finely ground (optional)
extra lemon slices or wedges for serving

Prep all the ingredients.
You will need two shallow plates, paper towel, one large frying pan, a small whisk and 2 small pots.

In a shallow plate mix the flour with 1 teaspoon of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Set aside.

Pat dry the fish fillets with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Making the sauce: equally divide 8 tablespoons of butter in two small pots. Keep one on the side and heat the second one until the butter is completely melted and starts to brown. You are looking for a nice “hazelnut-brown-color” (be careful not to burn the butter!). Pour the melted butter over the room temperature one and mix until combined. Add lemon juice and season lightly. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of clarified butter with olive oil until butter has melted and pan very hot. Quickly coat the fish fillets with the flour mixture, remove flour excess and sear them for 2 minutes on each side. Work in batches and do not overcrowd the pan.
Transfer the seared sole fillet to a serving plate. Drizzle a little bit of the butter-lemon sauce on top and sprinkle with parsley and ground toasted almonds if using.
Serve with lemon wedges.