~ Totally Undeserving of the James Beard Award

~ Completely Undeserving of the James Beard Award ~

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bon Appetit!

In honor of what would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday, I made dinner reminiscent of her cuisine, influence and passion (or at least in my little world I believed I was!).

When Julia arrived in Paris with her husband, a dinner she had was an epiphany...Sole Meunière! So, today I thought to try my hand at it.

Todays Menu:

Sole Meunière
Sautéed filet of Sole with butter, lemon and capers

Pommes De Terre a la Boulangere
Baked sliced Potatoes with onions and thyme in beef stock

Haricots Verts aux Amandes
Green Beans with almonds

This menu is actually quite easy to put together as as some steps can be done in advance and set aside to finish off just before serving.

Our first try to grow potatoes in the garden was a success! I wanted to find a recipe for them in an attempt to do as little as possible and to let their freshness shine through. A gratin would smother them in cheese...nope! Fries?...wrong type of potatoes and it won't work with the theme. 
So I search and found one here. French, easy and delicate for these new babies.

The recipe said it takes 2-3 hours...no way, probably 45 minutes. Just enough time for me to do the rest of the menu while it bakes away.
I prepped the green beans...sorted, washed and trimmed. I did a 2 minute blanch on them and tossed them in a ice bath (to "shock" them, to stop the cooking process), and set them aside.

(to blanch, simply toss them in salted boiling water until just past firm. Beside flavoring, the salt will keep the beans a vibrant green)

 For the protein portion of the meal...the sole I choose was dover sole. My only other option at the fish monger was patrale sole...at $4.00 more per pound...naw.
Similar to the French language, to which my daughter explained (5 years of French), the French designed their language not to be simple or explanatory...but for it to sound good...so, the French like to use white pepper...because black pepper leaves little black specks all over...SCANDELEUX! So not for how it tastes, but how it looks!

I dusted the fillets with fleur de del ("flower of salt, French sea salt) and because I did not want the Police Nationale at my door, I opted for white pepper. I could have easily used my go-to Kosher salt from my salt box or even Mortons...but what the hell, I am cooking a French menu, listening to a French cafe CD...use the good stuff.

As you see, fleur de del is quite flakey and is moist due to residual moisture.

I had a plate of all-purpose flour at the ready, to which I dredged the fillets in..JUST BEFORE COOKING! Don't pre-dredge them as the flour will become gummy.
Okay, so what type of fat to cook them in. Clarified butter. Not a big deal folks, just plan ahead...another step you can do ahead.

Clarified butter is simply butter to which is slowly heated and melted in a sauce pan. The fat solids will separate and rise to the surface. Take a spoon and carefully skim off the fat solids and discard. Once that is done, some people will strain it through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth.

Good quality, unsalted butter 

Slowly melt

Skim off fat
 So, add clarified butter to coat the bottom of a medium hot pan plus a bit more, maybe 1/16th", dredge your fillets, shake off any excess flour and lay them in the pan. Always lay your pieces starting at the edge of the pan closest to you, then gently lay it down away from you. This will ensure any slopped fat will splash away from you and not onto your favorite Tommy Bahama shirt!

It, of course, will take different amount of times depending on the thickness of your fillets. After a few minutes, touch the fish, it should be firm yet springs back. I think it important to touch your fish or steaks or even hamburgers and learn to know the doneness by feel. Some proteins you don't want to do this with such as with chicken, for that do use a thermometer of cut a slit to see clear juices.

The fish should be a nice golden brown, carefully flip it, repeat, then to your serving platter. Because my fillets were rather thin, I had to buy several pieces which I required me to use two pans to cook them all at the same time. You don't want to crowd them.

After you have plated the fillets, sprinkle your already (mise en place, folks!) chopped flat parsley over the fish. Then add butter (it doesn't have to be clarified) to one of the pans over high heat. A tablespoon or so will do, depends on your amount of fish. Get that bubbling and add a few teaspoons of capers and juice from half a lemon. Be careful as the lemon juice will splatter, then pour over the fillets and parsley. This hot sauce will wilt the parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.

While all this is going on, heat a large pan over high heat with butter (this is where you say, "you can never have enough butter!" in a Julia Child voice), add slivered almonds and slightly toast, add your blanched green beens to reheat. Toss them around add a sprinkle of S&P and plate.

The potatoes are done. I chose a nice casserole dish to cook them in so I can serve them in the same. For me, I used my oval copper pan. 

Sounds like a lot of work, but with a bit of prep work it can come together rather quickly. How was it? Not a speck of leftovers.

Mrs. Blogger Man and I travelled to Washington DC a year or so ago, saw some sights including the Smithonian...which I HAD to see their recreation of Julia's kitchen. On display was her kitchen, laid out just as she had it...using her actual pans utensils, cabinets, the hole thing which she donated to the museum. 

I know, I know...I am a bit off...

Happy Birthday, Julia!

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