French cuisine is one of those types of cooking that brings me straight back to my grandmother’s kitchen.
Whenever people ask me to describe my grandmother, I can’t help but characterize as our family’s very own Julia Child.
She studied cooking in Paris, she had that big bubbling laugh like Julia did, and she cooked the most amazing food in the entire world.
My grandmother loved seafood, and she would often take me around the city, searching for the freshest fish she could find. I used to hate fish, but whenever my grandmother made it, I actually enjoyed it.
One of her favorite dishes was Sole Meunière, also known as fish with brown butter sauce. The classic dish that Julia Child also loved couldn’t be easier to make, and yet, it tastes like a total indulgence.
You start by dredging the fillets in a light coating of salt, pepper, and flour. Then you add it to a hot mixture of oil and butter, and cook it until the exterior is nice and crisp.
The crisp exterior is light and heavenly. To me, the ethereal results that you’ll get when you make this don’t feel like a traditional fried fish recipe in any way.
It’s a light and tasty entree that you can pair with any seasonal vegetable. My personal favorite pairing is broccoli, but asparagus, peas, or green beans will work as well. And if white asparagus is in season, you can take advantage of this find for recipes like this, or in other seafood dishes like our baked tilapia.
It’s also a healthier dish than other fried options (yes, even with the butter), so you don’t have to feel guilty as the seafood melts in your mouth with every bite. It’s a smart way to cook a perfect fish!
One of the things I am constantly saying to my husband is that we should eat more fish. Of course, he automatically associates seafood with a complicated recipe.
But when it comes to this recipe, he couldn’t be more wrong (sorry, hubby).
It’s nice to come home to a meal like this, especially when you can get it on the table in just 15 minutes. While I love to slow cook, braise, and marinate on a regular basis, it’s pretty nice when you don’t have to worry about that extra step, and the time involved.
I know that fresh sole can sometimes be a little difficult to find, so it’s totally acceptable to use frozen fillets here if you need to. Simply be sure to note the instructions for thawing that I’ve outlined in the Cooking by the Numbers section of this article below – keep reading for all of the details that you’ll need!
No matter what, you will feel like you are sitting in a classic Parisian bistro when your meal is set on the table. The subtle flavor of the sole with the butter, lemon, and fresh parsley is a combination that you’re sure to fall in love with, if you haven’t already.
It’ll become a family favorite in no time.
As someone who used to be very picky about fish, I can say this with complete honesty:
This is one of those approachable seafood recipes that even the most picky child (or adult) will not be able to resist.Print
For a fast dinner, try Sole Meunière, a classic French fish dish cooked in a rich brown butter sauce. It only takes 15 minutes to make.
For the Fish:
- 4 boneless, skinless sole fillets (3-4 oz each)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Lemon wedges, for serving
For the Sauce:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Pat fish dry. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge in flour, and knock off excess. Set aside.
- Heat oil and butter for the fish in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Add fish and cook, turning halfway through, until browned and cooked through. This will take about 2-3 minutes total. Do not overcook.
- Transfer fish to a plate. Discard fat from skillet and reduce heat to medium-low.
- Add butter, and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and add parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir to combine.
- Pour sauce over fish. Serve with lemon wedges.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Fish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Seafood
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
Remove the stems and chop enough flat leaf Italian parsley so you have 2 1/2 tablespoons total.
Zest one medium lemon until you have 1 teaspoon total. A microplane comes in handy for this.
Juice the lemon that you zested, remove any seeds, and measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons total of juice.
If you bought your sole frozen instead of fresh, the best way to thaw it is to leave it in the refrigerator overnight the day before you plan to make this recipe. That way, the fish can thaw slowly at a safe temperature.
If you are pressed for time, you can place the frozen sole in a resealable plastic bag, remove any air and seal it well. Submerge the bag in a pot of cold water for an hour before proceeding with the recipe.
Step 2 – Season and Dredge
Use paper towels to pat the fillets dry. Season them evenly on both sides with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
Place the flour on a small, flat plate. Dredge the fillets in flour, and gently shake them to knock off the excess. Set aside.
Step 3 – Cook
Add the fish and cook, turning once halfway through. If you have a fish spatula, get it out now, because it really is the perfect tool for this task.
Each fillet should take about 2-3 minutes total to cook, and they should be browned and cooked through when you remove them from the pan. Be careful not to overcook the sole.
Transfer to a plate or serving platter and set aside. Pour any excess fat from the pan and reduce heat to medium-low.
Step 4 – Make Sauce
Return the skillet to the heat and add the butter for the sauce. Cook until the butter is browned, about 3-5 minutes. For more detailed instructions and other suggestions for using brown butter in your cooking, you can read more about it here.
Remove from heat and stir in the parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Pour the sauce over the cooked sole and serve warm with lemon wedges.
Make Your Fish to Order
I know there are several different dishes that you can make ahead and keep warm for dinnertime, but this is not one of them. Honestly, this dish is best served immediately after you make it.
Of course, it’s so easy to make, that’s not too much of a problem.
Just note that if you are planning to serve it for a dinner party, make sure all the other elements of the meal are ready to go before you start cooking the fish. You can keep vegetables and starches warm for the 15 minutes it takes to cook this recipe up.
Do you want to eat more fish? Here are some treasured white fillet favorites that you should try next:
- Parmesan Tilapia
- Sauteed Wild Black Cod Fillets
- Pecorino-Encrusted Cod in Brown Butter and Dill Sauce
What’s your favorite kind of fish to cook at home? Tell us in the comments below. Once you try the recipe, be sure to come back to give it a rating and let other readers know how much you enjoyed it!
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on May 9, 2010. Last updated: November 23, 2023 at 10:18 am.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.