“Perfectly browned in sputtering butter sauce” is how she described it, and I knew before I even tried it I was in love. By “she” I mean Julia Child and by “it” I mean the meal that changed her trajectory forever: sole meuniére.
No food blog is complete without some mention or homage to THE Julia Child. I won’t make it excessive or eulogizing, because even though I love the woman, there’s hardly anything that hasn’t been said about her already. And if there’s one thing I hate it’s being redundant. And close talkers, but that’s beside the point.
Gentle Giant Julia began cooking because she wanted to impress her new husband and became especially vigilant about mastering her techniques after failing her first meal for him: brains simmered in red wine. Now I’m not shy about eating unconventional foods and I’m willing to eat about any part of an animal that’s edible, naughty bits included. But there’s something about eating a purpley-greyish cow cerebrum and serving it with a classic Port that feels more Hannibal Lector than it does “gormet”.
My hunt for sole proved exhausting and disappointing. I ran around town with raving lunacy, frantically searching through surf and turf shops high and low, exasperating one desperate plea after another to each fisherman and butcher begging for some sole. This sole resembled an elusive mistress who leaves a still-lit cigarette in the ashtray before she exits, toying with you, letting you know you just missed her company by mere minutes and there’s no way of finding out where she’ll be next. After 5 consecutie unsuccessful stops, I cracked. I fantasized about grabbing the fish clerk’s shoulders, staring into his eyes, and growling in an octave well below my capacity, “GIVE ME YOUR SOLE, YOU TURKEY.” But I didn’t. Instead, realizing the futility of my search I quit my floundering and settled on the tragically appropriate alternative: flounder, the other less satisfying mistress.
The meuniére sauce is arguably the best part of the entire dish and with a medley of clarified butter, a hint of lemon piquancy and garden fresh cilantro, what’s not to love? Once the fish has been browned to the point where the inside is moist and flakey with a slightly crispy exterior, it’s moved to a plate and then inundated with a surge of the browned meuniére sauce. Not wanting any of it to go to waste, I opted to serve it atop a layer of grilled zucchini and squash strips in a lemon thyme sourdough bowl that soaked up every drop of sauce and perpetuated the tangy taste of meurniére down to the last, buttery, wonderfully caloric bite.
Linda from Salty Seattle and Nicole from Pinch My Salt have been raising sourdough awareness during the month of November and have aptly named it Doughvember. With a little stroke of luck and some coolness on Linda’s part, a bit of her 10 year old, San Fran-native starter ended up in my hands and I’ve been baking away since. For those unfamiliar with sourdough starter, it’s a small batch of fermented dough that harbors organisms which promote natural leavening in baked goods, and is what gives sourdough its trademark, tangy flavor. And just like a real live pet and you have to feed your starter a mixture of flour and water daily to keep it active and alive. I’ve named mine Herman.
Admittedly I’m a little green when it comes to baking sourdough bread, or any bread for that matter, and my first few attempts came out hack-saw-necessitating, jawbone-achingly dense. Nearly impenetrable even, but delicious when I finally broke the bread’s rough exterior. Since those first few teeth chipping attempts, my bread has come out with a finer crumb and a slightly softer crust. It’s still not perfect, but I’m okay with that. Even Julia wasn’t perfect, and she was Julia freakin’ Child! I have faith that in time Herman and I will polish our methods and produce flaky, supple and soft sourdough loaves, but until then I’ll be sure to keep my dentist on speed dial.
Sole/Flounder Meurniere in a Lemon Thyme Sourdough Bowl
[print_this]Recipe: Sole Meuniére in Lemon Thyme Sourdough
Summary: A classic fish dish perfected by the French, lovingly nestled into its sourdough casket, ready for gobbling.
Preparation time: 11 hours; 1 hour(s) active, 10 hours resting
Cooking time: 45 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 2
For the Sourdough
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (1/4 to 1/2 cup more may be needed)
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Pinch of corn meal
For the Sole Meuniere
- 1/2 lb of sole, flounder or other flat whitefish (roughly 4 fillets)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
For the Sourdough
- In a stand mixer with a dough hook, add all ingredients and knead for 5 to 7 minutes, adding more flour as needed, if needed. Dough should be soft, supple and not too wet or too dry.
- Roll into a ball and place into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place into a warm place for 8-10 hours. Dough should have risen twice the original size.
- Punch down dough and roll into a ball and place onto a baking stone that is lightly sprinkled with corn meal. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees, brush dough with olive oil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when knocked.
- Remove bread to a cooling rack, brush lightly again with olive oil and wrap in a lightly dampened tea towel.
For the Sole Meuniere
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium
- Combine flour, salt and pepper and dredge each piece of fish directly prior to adding to hot butter, but not beforehand.
- Add two fillets to the butter and brown for two minutes. Turn over and brown on opposite side for two additional minutes and remove from the pan to a heating plate.
- Melt remaining butter in the skillet and add remaining fillets, browning on each side for two minutes.
- Pour lemon juice into the butter and whisk well. Add chopped parsley, move fillets to serving plates or bread bowl, and spoon sauce over fillets.[/print_this]