Julia Child made this classic French dish famous with her Sole Meunière. This easy fish meunière (fish in butter sauce) is seared in butter and oil, and served with a lemon and butter sauce.
Legend has it that Julia Child’s love affair with food began after a delicious escapade (a.k.a.– dinner) with a dish of Sole Meunière.
Julia’s decadent dish featured True Dover Sole— a European fish that is luxurious, sweet, and quite frankly– impossible to find where I live.
Happily, the French meunière technique works with other fish too, and can be decadent for date night, or quick and delicious for weeknight dinners.
If you’re looking for other classic French recipes for a special night in, try these: ratatouille, gratin dauphinois (scalloped potatoes) French onion soup, French crêpes (or gluten-free crêpes or vegan crêpes), and crème brûlée (or coconut crème brûlée).
What Does Meunière Mean?
Meunière is French for “in the manner of the miller’s wife,” and refers to fish that’s been dusted in flour and cooked in butter.
Apparently the miller’s wife loved butter. She was a smart lady.
Dover Sole Substitutes for Fish Meunière
Julia Child’s sole meunière was a rich and decadent dish. Why was it so rich? Partly because of the butter, but also because of the sweet and meaty Dover sole.
What if you can’t find Dover sole?
I love using halibut or cod in this recipe. They’re thick, meaty, and luxurious.
The fish in the photos is halibut. Pan-seared halibut is truly one of life’s best treats.
That said, this technique for fish meunière works with any mild, white fish.
I’ve made this dish on a weeknight with flounder. Flounder is an affordable, thin, less meaty fish.
Pacific Dover Sole vs True (European) Dover Sole
If you’re shopping for Dover sole, keep an eye out for Pacific or West Coast Dover Sole.
Pacific Dover sole is an affordable fish that works perfectly in this recipe– just make sure that you understand what you’re buying.
Pacific Dover sole is a type of flounder, and is a totally different fish than the rich and decadent true Dover sole. So don’t pay a premium price for it!
Do I Need to Use Clarified Butter?
Traditional sole meunière uses clarified butter, because it is a little more stable, and doesn’t brown as quickly.
For this recipe, I’ve added a little olive oil to regular butter instead of using clarified butter– just as Julia Child recommends in her book Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom.
The oil and butter mixture won’t brown as quickly as butter on its own, and it’s a quicker solution.
If you prefer to use clarified butter, check out this recipe from Serious Eats.
How to Make Fish Meunière
The technique to make this meunière is simple.
You’ll dry the fish, dust it with flour.
Next, cook it in a pan with hot butter, flipping once.
Finally, you’ll make a quick pan sauce, and serve the fish while it’s still hot!
Want SIDE DISH ideas? Try these: Oven-Roasted Asparagus with Charred Lemons, Garlic Cauliflower Mash, Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apple Cider Vinegar
Fish in Butter Sauce (Fish Meunière)
- 2 mild white fish fillets, such as flounder, Dover sole, cod, or halibut
- 1 tablespoon flour
- pinch salt, pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 ½ tablespoons butter, divided
- ½ cup white wine Substitute white wine or rice wine vinegar if needed
- 1 lemon, juiced, plus 1 more lemon to char (optional)
- 1 tablespoon capers (optional)
- Handful fresh herbs (parsley, chives, basil, cilantro etc)
- Pat fillets dry. Dust with flour, and shake off any excess. Sprinkle them on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Prepare a heavy pan with the olive oil and 1 TB butter. Heat on medium-high until butter is melted but not browned, then turn the heat down to medium.
- Place the fillets in the pan and cook 2-4 minutes. Don’t touch the fillets until they’re ready to flip.Note: Thin fillets like flounder will need to cook approx. 2 minutes per side, Dover sole 2-3 min per side, cod + halibut 4 min per side.
- Use a thin metal spatula to test the fish. If you can slide the spatula under the fish without the fish sticking to the pan, it’s ready to flip. If the fillets won’t release- give them another 30 seconds. They’ll release when they’ve finished cooking.
- Cook fish another 2-4 minutes until done.(See note above for cook time.)
- Divide the 1 TB butter over both fillets. Transfer the fish to plates, leaving the excess butter in the pan. Cover fish to keep warm, or set fish in a 200ºF oven.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add the wine to the pan, and allow it to reduce for about a minute. Add the remaining butter and lemon juice and stir with a wooden spoon. Add half the herbs and stir again.
- Optionally, cut remaining lemon in half. Turn heat to high, and set lemon cut-side down on the hot pan. Char 2-3 minutes until the cut side is charred.
- Serve fish hot with pan sauce, remaining herbs, and optional capers and lemons.