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Le Dôme's Sole Meunière




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La Belle Cuisine


Le Dôme’s Sole Meunière

The Paris Cookbook

by Patricia Wells, 2001, HarperCollins

What is a meunière:  The term meunière translates literally as ‘in the style of
the miller’s wife’. This refers, of course, to the flour miller, and anything called
meunière means that the dish, usually fish, is first dusted with flour and then
cooked in butter. Anything cooked
meunière is also generally sprinkled with
lemon juice and chopped parsley.”

“For years I traveled from Paris restaurant to Paris restaurant in search of the
sole à la meunière – a simple and sublime panfried fish embellished with
nothing more than its buttery cooking juices, a sprinkling of parsley, and a
shower of lemon juice. As I sampled the sweet fish here and there, I studied
the moistness and size at one restaurant, the color and fragrance of the brown
butter at another, the dexterity of the server in filleting the fish at yet another. Finally I determined that the famous Montparnasse Art Deco brasserie Le
Dôme – whose prized fish comes from the Ile d’Yeu on the Brittany coast –
had the best of all, so I set aside a morning to spend in the kitchen with the
Dôme’s chef, Frank Graux. I expected to pick up a few tips, but I hardly
expected him to take all the classic ideas about cooking this delicate fish
and throw them out the window! [His secrets follow the recipe.]

Serves 2 as a main course

2 sole (or substitute any firm white-fleshed fish,
such as flounder, trout, or perch), each about
12 ounces, trimmed, gutted, and scaled
Sea salt to taste
8 tablespoons lightly salted butter
Finely minced fresh curly parsley, for garnish
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, for garnish

An oval, heavy nonstick skillet large
enough to hold the fish

1. Season the fish with sea salt. Heat a dry nonstick pan over high heat
until it is smoking. Add the butter and let it begin to melt for about
10 seconds. Then add the fish (if it is sole, place it light-skinned-
side down). Reduce the heat to low. Cook, undisturbed, until the
skin near the tail portion begins to pull away from the flesh, about
4 minutes. During this time, the butter will turn brown and emit
an aroma of grilled hazelnuts. (If it looks as though the butter is
getting too brown, instantly add more butter to cool it down and
stop it from burning. Should the butter burn, discard it and begin
again with fresh butter.)
2. Using a flexible spatula, turn the fish over, and cook for 4 minutes
3. Remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the fish to a serving platter,
and fillet it. Transfer the fillets to warm dinner plates. Pour the
brown butter from the skillet all over the fish. (For sole sèche,
or dry sole without the butter, sauce, delete this step, discarding
the brown butter.) Season with parsley and lemon juice,
and serve.

What I learned:  I think the most astonishing thing I learned from
this recipe is that butter can cook for a long time, up to 10 minutes,
without burning, as long as you carefully regulate the heat.

The elegance of the fish, the sweetness of the flesh, and the nuttiness of
the butter make me want a rich wine, such as a white Burgundy or a
golden Meursault, whose own nuttiness echoes the best elements of this
classic dish.

Chef Frank Graux’s Tips for perfect panfried flatfish:  Just when you think
you know everything about a dish, you realize you know nothing. While tradi-
tional recipes for sole suggest that you skin the fish, dust it with flour, and cook
it in clarified butter, Graux does none of the above. In fact, the idea for leaving
the skin intact came from his children. One day he seared them turbot with the
skin, and one of the children cleaned his plate and asked if there was some more
skin left over! Here, then, are some of the lessons I’ve learned at Le Dôme.
Lessons that can apply to the panfrying of any flatfish. This is a simple prepar-
ation, but one that requires a bit of patience. The practice is worth it, and the
rewards incredible.

♦ Use the best-quality lightly salted butter you can find. While many cooks recommend using clarified butter (clarifying removes the water and solids
that burn and discolor when the butter is heated to a high temperature),
Graux feels that clarifying denatures the flavor of the butter, and the
butter flavor is important to this dish. He prefers to use lightly salted
butter, which burns less quickly than unsalted butter.
♦ Do not skin the fish – just scale, gut, and trim it. The skin acts as a natural protective barrier. By leaving the skin on, you do not need the “artificial”
barrier of the commonly used coating of flour.
 ♦ Use the right pan: He uses a heavy-duty aluminum nonstick oval pan that
leaves generous room for the fish. You need to seal the fish first to prevent
the butter from saturating the inside. If the pan is too small or the heat too
low, the fish will be soggy with fat, rather than crisp on the outside and
juicy on the inside.
  ♦ Begin at a high heat and then reduce the heat to low. Once the fish is
“sealed” over high heat, reduce the heat to low to finish cooking and
to prevent the outside from burning.

Le Dôme
108, Boulevard Montparnasse
Paris 14
Telephone: 01 43 35 25 81
Fax: 01 42 79 01 19
Métro: Vavin

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in Broth with Aïoli

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Bonne Femme

Rao's Fillet of Sole with Fennel
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Trout Meunière Amandine


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