Sole Meunière à la Julia Child
Joyeux Anniversaire Julia Child! Today would have been Julia’s 105th birthday. It has been a tradition to celebrate her birthday here on Taste With The Eyes for the past 10 years.
Please join me as I re-create Julia Child’s very first meal in France, one that she experienced with her husband Paul Child. The story takes place in Rouen, France in November of 1948. I originally wrote this post back in 2007. I resurrect it every year in August, with some minor changes, to celebrate Julia Child’s birthday. This year I am including her recipe for Sole Meunière.
The text is as she describes her meal to us in My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006. The re-creation photographs are ones that I have taken on my travels; some are from France, others from California, a couple are shot in my own home. I use the sepia tone to give the images the feel of a single place almost 70 years ago.
Come, let’s travel back in time and enjoy French food and revel in its perfection via Julia…
Julia Child’s First Meal in France and Sole Meunière
“We passed the city’s ancient and beautiful clock tower, and then its famous cathedral,
still pockmarked from battle but magnificent with its stained glass windows.
We rolled to a stop in La Place du Vieux Marché,
the square where Joan of Arc had met her fiery fate.”
“Rouen is a 2000 year old city located in Normandy on the Seine River
not too far from the English Channel.”
“There the Guide Michelin directed us to Restaurant La Couronne.
It was warm inside, and the dining room was a comfortably old-fashioned brown-and-white space,
neither humble nor luxurious.”
“The waiter is telling them about the chicken they ordered,” Paul whispered,
“how it was raised, how it will be cooked, what side dishes they can have with it,
and which wines would go best.”
“Wine?” exclaimed Julia, “at lunch?”
“We began our lunch with oysters on the half shell.
They had a sensational briny flavor and a smooth texture that was entirely new and surprising.”
“Rouen is famous for its duck dishes, but after consulting the waiter Paul had decided to order
perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top.
I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly.
The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that
blended marvelously with the browned butter.
It was a morsel of perfection.”
“Then came the salade verte laced with a slightly acidic vinaigrette.
And I tasted my first real baguette – Yum!
Along with our meal, we happily downed a whole bottle of Pouilly-Fumé,
a wonderfully crisp white wine from the Loire region.
“We followed our meal with a leisurely dessert of fromage.”
“Paul and I floated out the door into the brilliant sunshine and cool air.
Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection.”
“It was the most exciting meal of my life.”
August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004
chef, mentor, heroine, author, television icon,
inspiration, nonagenarian, friend
“…A careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life changing experience. Such was the case with the Sole Meunière I ate at La Couronne on my first day in France, in November 1948. It was an epiphany. In all the years since that succulent meal, I have yet to lose the feelings of wonder and excitement that it inspired in me. I can still almost taste it. And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite – toujours bon appetit!“
-Julia Child, My Life In France
Sole Meunière à la Julia Child
“a morsel of perfection”
- fresh skinless boneless sole fillets (we like petrale sole)
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- wondra (finely milled flour)
- clarified butter
- minced parsley
- unsalted butter
Rinse and dry the fish with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1/16 inch clarified butter in a non-stick skillet over high heat.
Lightly coat the fish with flour, shaking off any excess. Immediately add fillets to the pan without crowding. Sauté until nicely browned on one side then carefully flip and cook the other side. Remove fish to a platter.
Wipe out the skillet. Add unsalted butter. When butter bubbles, add fillets back to the pan. Sprinkle parsley on top of the fish. The butter will begin to brown, slide fillets onto serving plates, pour browned butter over the fish. Serve with lemon. Et voilà. Merci Julia.
“perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top”
Sneak into Julia’s kitchen to watch her make the authentic Caesar Salad and Salmon in Papillote in her usual charming and un-fussy manner. (here)
Travel back in time to Cambridge, Massachusetts where I imagine dinner at the kitchen table of Paul and Julia Child as they enjoy a light supper including Vichyssoise on a hot August night. (here)
Join Julia and her friends in a beautiful courtyard, seated at a little white table beneath a leafy trellis for a splendid lunch, while they uncover the secret of Loup de Mer. (here)
Julia Child’s Upside-Down Martini. (here)