August 19, 2012

Sole Meuniére

Famed chef and cookbook author Julia Child would have turned 100 on August 15. Child learned to cook at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in her mid-thirties & worked for years on her tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the first book to bring classic French food into American kitchens.

Julia and her husband Paul arrived in France on November 3, 1948. Her first French meal, at Restaurant La Couronne in Rouen, featured sole meuniére, oysters on the half-shell, a green salad, her "first real baguette," fromage blanc, and a bottle of Pouilly-Fume.

In the opening pages of her memoir My Life in France, Julia writes:
Rouen is famous for its duck dishes, but after consulting the waiter Paul had decided to order sole meunière. It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. [...]
I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection.
[...] at La Couronne I experienced fish, and a dining experience, of a higher order than any I'd ever had before. [...] Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life.
Julia later admits that the meal was "the standard by which [she] would now measure every eatery."

That lunch is my favorite scene in Julie & Julia; Meryl Streep as Julia Child is emotionally overwhelmed with the first bite of sole meunière, a dish that seems so delicious that she cannot express her satisfaction in words. It's a moving scene that nearly brings me to tears every time I watch it.

In "The Whole Fish Story" episode of The French Chef, Julia calls sole "one of the glories of French Fishery." Sadly, we can't get authentic Dover Sole in the United States. The fishes that are sold as "sole" here are all flounders, which is a similar fish.  Julia explained:
The great difference between the true sole and all other of the flat flounder type of fishes is that you can easily peel the skin from a sole but not flounder; They must be filleted first before removing the skin.
In honor of Julia's 100th birthday, I prepared this historic dish for myself tonight.

I carefully dredged the delicate, white filets & cooked them. I smiled as the hot browned butter made the lemon juice and parsley sizzle on the plate. I took the first bite while standing in the kitchen. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what Julia was thinking when she took her first bite. I could instantly understand why she was so smitten. It was quite delicious. I savored each bite...the nuttiness from the browned butter, the slight tartness from the lemon juice, the freshness from the parsley, the sweetness from the fish. 

It was, dare I say it, a little bit magical...even in my midwestern kitchen on a late summer Sunday evening.
Sole Meuniére

recipe slightly adapted from The Culinary Institute of America
Serves 2
2 sole filets
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
pinch of fresly-ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging, as needed
2 ounces clarified butter
juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley 
1 ounces whole butter 
  • Season the fish with salt & pepper; dredge in flour.
  • Sauté the fish in a large sauté pan in the clarified butter over medium heat until lightly browned and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
  • Transfer the fish to a serving platter and sprinkle with the parsley & lemon juice.
  • Wipe out the pan and add the butter. Heat the butter until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes, then pour over the fish.
The CIA says, "Dover Sole is classically served whole and filleted tableside. Steamed potatoes are an excellent accompaniment." On her cooking show, Julia recommended serving the dish with parsley potatoes, cucumber salad, and Riesling. I ate mine with a bottle of white Bordeaux and steamed broccolini to soak up the remaining buttery, lemony sauce.

And what was left, I literally licked clean...standing with my empty plate over the sink. I got butter in my hair.

I think Julia would approve.

* * * * * * * * * *

Here are a few other of Julia Child's recipes that I've made:

Boeuf Bourguignon
Lobster Thermidor 
Oeufs Brouilles (scrambled eggs) 
Potage Parmentier (potato & leek soup)
Soupe a L'Oignon (Onion Soup)

August 7, 2012

Pickled Watermelon Rind with Hibiscus

This recipe comes from a new canning book by Laena McCarthy (owner of Anarchy in a Jar) called Jam On: The Craft of Canning Fruit.

The book includes classic recipes along with some pretty interesting sounding ones..including spiced beer jelly, raspberry rye whiskey jam, pear jam with chipotle, garlic & tarragon jelly, green tomato chutney, pickled strawberries, sour cherry liqueur, and grapefruit & smoked salt marmalade (which I will be trying next).

The last chapter "Pairings" features recipes to make with the fruits you've jammed, jellied, pickled & canned. 

I chose to try the pickled watermelon rind with hibiscus & spices for a couple reasons: (1) I've never eaten pickled watermelon rind, and (2) I had half of a watermelon sitting in my fridge.

The recipe calls for hibiscus flowers, which I assume were meant to be the kind of dried flowers you find in hibiscus teas. I used wild hibiscus flowers in syrup, but the final product wasn't as pinkly-tinted as I imagine you'd get if you used hibiscus tea.

Still, these pickles were quite good...sweet, slightly tart, with a firm texture. I ate them as McCarthy suggests with buttery, oozing Brillat-Savarin cheese on a hot baguette.

She also recommends pairing these with barbecued baby back ribs, adding them to a prosciutto/melon/argula salad, and sandwiching them in a grilled cheese.

Pickled Watermelon Rind with Hibiscus

August 2, 2012

Fall 2012 Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's fall schedule is now posted online. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

My new menus include a pasta class for kids (September 1), a stovetop shrimp boil (September 23), a girls' night out inspired by my friend Iron Stef featuring all kinds of BALLS (October 27), a Mexican themed girls' night out (November 3), and the ultimate holiday cocktail party (December 9).

Hope to see you there!

FRANK 'N STEIN - August 26 @ 1:00-3:30 (hands-on)
  • Let's create serious fun in the lab kitchen as this hands-on class concocts sesame-honey pork meatballs, grilled local salsiccia with grilled fennel relish, sweet corn pudding, seared romaine with balsamic vinaigrette, plus chocolate whoopie pies with salted caramel filling. Enjoy two beer pairings that have been perfectly calculated.
THE APPRENTICE CHEF: ON TOP OF SPAGHETTI - September 1 @ 10:30-12:30 (hands-on)
  • For aspiring chefs, children from ages 7 to 12. Keep your eye on the meatball, so that it doesn't roll off the table, and spend a fun morning creating homemade spaghetti noodles. Learn to make three sauces, including marinara sauce, cheesy Alfredo sauce, plus meatballs and sauce. Finish with chocolate gelato for dessert.
  • Forget the porridge, chair, and sleeping - the three tastings of beer will be just right and plenty cold! Join me (aka"goldilocks," though now I am red-headed) in a fun evening designed for couples. This hands-on class will prepare beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, local lager with spicy Sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops and corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake and vanilla ice cream.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: SHRIMP BOIL SHINDIG - September 23 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Spend a festive evening with your partner creating a modern shindig with Cajun lemonade, cheddar-ale spread with homemade crackers, stovetop shrimp boil with spicy andouille sausage and baby potatoes, creamed summer corn, plus strawberry-balsamic ice cream with lime shortbread. 
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: GOURMET MAC-AND-CHEESE - October 14 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Mac-and-cheese has never tasted so sophisticated! Couples will love the adult version of three luscious interpretations of this classic dish, as this hands-on class creates orzo with mascarpone and butter-poached lobster, ultimate mac-and-cheese with peas and bacon, plus souffléed mac-and-cheese with gouda and smoked paprika. The class will also prepare a rum-ginger beer cocktail, fennel-apple salad with apple cider vinaigrette, and refreshing key lime sorbet.
HEIR AND A PARENT: WIZARDS AT HONEYDUKES SWEETSHOP - October 21 @ 1:00-3:30 (hands-on)
  • Muggles and wizards gather for a fun afternoon concocting delicious treats from Honeydukes Sweetshop. Satisfy your sweet tooth, with Hagrid's treacle fudge, Mrs. Weasley's strawberry ice cream, marshmallow crumpets, pumpkin pasties, and amazing warm and frothy butterbeer. This class is designed for children, at least 7 years of age, plus a parent.
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: BALLS! - October 27 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
  • If you feel that you have been going in circles all week, gather your girlfriends for an evening that will certainly be a ball! I'll prepare pecan-goat cheese balls with "drunken" grapes, pork meatball bahn mi sandwiches, Italian wedding soup with chicken meatballs, peanut butter-bacon-chocolate truffles, plus white wine-melon ball-berry sangria.     
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: THE WHOLE ENCHILADA - November 3 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
  • Indulge your guilty pleasures for craving Mexican cuisine, as I make a Mexican chocolate martini, fried avocado rolls with cilantro dipping sauce, chile-crab enchiladas with green chiles and homemade sauce, roasted street corn salad with spicy Mexican crema dressing and cojita cheese, plus tequila-lime sorbet.