Friday, February 05, 2010

Cooking -- and eating -- like Julia Child

Julia Child, the mother of American gourmancy, experienced what she called her culinary awakening with her very first meal in France more than 60 years ago -- sole meunière.

The almost-too-delicate-to-handle sole, filleted from the dover sole or other flat fish such as the flounder, is cooked in a butter sautè and served with butter sauce, or beurre blanc.

Sole meunière was on the menu today in Culinary Foundations III as the entrèe in a three-course offering for Chef Dan Fluharty. It was one of our last efforts before next week's final exams.

We cut the fillets from whole flounder, no mean feat. The trick is avoiding the nasties inside the fish, getting as much of the flesh as possible while avoiding bones and cutting the skin off without massacre of the delicate flesh. I nearly managed, getting one almost perfect fillet and a second that was -- well, suffice it to say that I served its two or three broken pieces hidden beneath almost perfect.

The cooking is lightning quick, two minutes or less on each side, and is the very last task in a rush of heat on the stovetop. The beurre blanc is a finicky sauce and must have one's full attention to avoid breaking the emulsion with too much or not enough heat. I managed mine well and turned out what Chef called a winning sauce, including mushrooms and capers.

The sole and sauce were plated with couscous, which I cooked right but slightly under-seasoned, and sautè of broccoli that was cooked and seasoned well. I garnished with tomato provençal, a crowned roma tomato with the seeds removed, stuffed with bread crumbs, herbs and parmesan cheese and baked for three minutes.

First course was clam chowder, which turned out as I like it, if a tad thick for Chef. Second course was a fennel and red pepper salad, marinated in a lemon zest vinaigrette. Chef said mine was seasoned as it should be.

Experiencing the delicate flavor of the sole meunière, accompanied by the mushroom and caper beurre blanc, made clear to me why Julia Child's inner gourmand was stirred when she partook of this most French and most gourmet of meals.

(Photo credits: Sole meunière,; Julia Child,

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