1 of my biggest plans as a recipe developer is to regulate, or at minimum account for, as lots of variables as I can to make sure as regular a result as probable for everyone who follows my recipes. You can envision, then, my temptation when tackling the French vintage regarded as sole meunière to consider to pressure it into a tidy minimal package of sauce-making perfection. That, it turns out, would have been a miscalculation.
Sole meunière is a single of a whole loved ones of European dishes that require a protein, often fish, in a lemony, buttery pan sauce. There are so several iterations of this essential notion that it really is not unusual for recipe builders to get baffled and slip-up just one for a different. A speedy lookup for “sole meunière,” for illustration, turns up plenty of recipes calling for capers (which should additional effectively be introduced as “piccata,” or “grenobloise” if there are also items of lemon flesh and tiny croutons), almonds (“amandine”), and breadcrumbs (“à la polonaise”). I’m a large enthusiast of all individuals variants, they just shouldn’t be named a classic meunière.
The conventional system for earning sole meunière starts off with seasoning and dredging the fish (it supposedly receives its identify from the flour dredge, as meunière is the “miller’s spouse”), browning it in a skillet in clarified butter, transferring the cooked fish to serving dishes and topping it with chopped parsley and new lemon juice, and eventually spooning some browned butter on major that you make in the skillet immediately after cooking the fish.
Reading through the common recipes in my hefty French cookbooks right away bought me thinking—why not make a much more deliberate pan sauce of brown butter, lemon juice, and parsley, just about every calibrated to realize a great ratio of fats to acid? Possessing considering that tried out it both of those techniques, I will notify you why not: It really is way fewer exciting. Due to the fact of its severe simplicity, the pleasure of producing sole meunière is in the flair of serving it the conventional way, the scalding brown butter splashing down onto the lemon-and-parsley–topped fillets and exploding in an fragrant froth of bubbles. It takes what would normally be an daily lemon-and-butter sauce and turns it into a minimal spectacle, and that, I swear, is way extra beneficial than dialing the sauce into some limited corner of “perfection.”
As for the fish by itself, the time period “sole” isn’t a specially practical a single, as several unique fish are offered beneath that identify in the United States, a number of of which are not actually in the sole relatives. In France, this would normally be designed with Dover sole—a genuine sole—but it is really high priced and can be tough to discover. If you can’t obtain it, do not fret. Any slim, white-fleshed fillet can get the job done, primarily types from a flatfish: lemon sole, gray sole, Petrale sole, and flounder would all be good. Thinner fillets of finfish like scrod, haddock, branzino, and even halibut could also perform, though if they get more than about a few-quarters of an inch thick you are going to get started to have problems obtaining the fish to cook dinner as a result of speedily.
Operating with thin, lean fillets of fish can be tricky—they can stick to a pan and break easily—so this is just one instance wherever I am all in favor of grabbing a nonstick skillet. In aspect-by-aspect assessments, I have uncovered that I’m capable to achieve great, even browning and brown the butter just as nicely in nonstick as in stainless, copper, or carbon steel, and it will take a lot of the likely for mistake out of the equation.
The cooking technique that I advise most for this form of skinny fish fillet is identified as “unilateral” cooking, which describes a course of action in which you cook dinner a piece of food stuff pretty much completely on one particular side to promise very good shade and flavor growth, then flip it in excess of just extensive adequate to slap some heat on the other aspect to complete it off. You may close up with parts of fish that are deeply browned on 1 facet (the “presentation aspect”), not so considerably on the other, which is better than the possible end result of both less than-browned or overcooked fish if you check out to break up the cooking time evenly on each sides. I suppose the lesson listed here is that even when you’re cutting free, there are nevertheless some variables worthy of hoping to regulate.