Warning: this dish is not for butterphobes.
It is for everyone else. Even you, Ms./Mr. I-don’t-like-fiiiiiish.
It’s so delicious it’s probably even worth splurging on Kerrygold or some other really good butter, though it’s also (as tonight’s meal proved) just fine with plain ol’ grocery-store butter. But if you’re one of those odd people who uses “vegan buttery spread” or (horrors!) actual margarine, well, please refer back to the first sentence of this post. I will not be held responsible for your unspeakably nasty results.
“Meunière” is French for “miller’s wife,” which I guess is probably a reference to the use of both flour (I’m thinking you could probably also use almond flour and it would also be delicious… will report back soon) and of butter, which of course was an expensive ingredient in Days of Yore and probably only accessible to people who were either comparably well-off or who had their own milch cows or whatever. Fortunately, these days, butter is not too expensive. Even the Kerrygold sort is only about $6 for a pound, which should last you at least a week if you go through butter like we do, and the Dover sole I used was, likewise, about $6 for a pound at Trader Joe’s. And, it being a classic French preparation, of course there are lots of variations on how to make it. This is what I did.
About one pound Dover sole fillets, thawed if frozen, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup or so flour (almond flour? why not?)
1/2 to 1 tsp EACH kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper
4 to 6 Tbsp butter (more is better, seriously), cut into chunks
1 medium lemon
Rinse the fish, pat it dry, and set aside. Preheat oven to a nice warm temperature (ours doesn’t go below 170, so that’s what I used). With a fork, stir together flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow plate.
Dredge fish in flour and lay pieces on a baking sheet as each is lightly coated. (Some recipes call for dipping the fish in milk before dredging, but I didn’t do this and it worked just fine.)
Heat a large, heavy pan (cast iron is excellent! nonstick is nasty!) over medium-high heat. Add butter and cook, swirling pretty much constantly, until butter first melts, then foams, then turns a lovely nutty brown. Do not walk away and ignore the pan. Do not let the butter burn, because yuck.
Turn heat down to medium-low and give the butter several seconds to acclimate. Add a few pieces of fish, making sure you don’t crowd the pan. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes; carefully flip and cook on other side for the same amount of time, until just cooked through. DO NOT OVERCOOK. As fish is finished, remove it to a clean plate or baking sheet and put it in the oven to keep warm while you cook the next batch of fillets.
While the last batch is cooking (remembering to keep an eye on it as it does so), cut the lemon in half. Juice one half. Slice four heart-rendingly thin slices from the other half.
Plate the cooked fish (you can, if you like, rest it on a lovely little bed of this ridiculously yummy artichoke-olive tapenade). Drizzle each fillet first with a little lemon juice, then with some of the heavenly browned butter. Make it all purty and fancy-like by garnishing with a lemon slice.
Seriously, you can whip this up in ten minutes (fifteen, max) and your family/friends/lover/roommate/cat/whomsoever will gaze admiringly and adoringly upon you and you will be all “oh, this silly little thing? It’s français, mon ange,” and then let us just draw a curtain on the rest of this domestic scene.