My grandmother lived to be a hundred. I loved her dearly and she was a wonderful cook. From the age of six I would often go out with her to eat at Van der Toren restaurant in Scheveningen. These days it attracts a lot of tourists but Grandma liked it there because she said they made her favourite dish – fried sole – better than anywhere else. Sole à la meunière is its classic French name, meaning ‘cooked in the style of the miller’, as the fish is first lightly coated in flour to give it a crunchy crust. Sole à la meunière is fried in butter, which adds a delicious flavour, and the butter makes a sauce. For a proper crust, you must fry the sole over a high heat but that burns the butter. The classic French recipe says to start by clarifying the butter but there is an easier way. You can begin frying the sole in oil, and add the butter to the pan at the end, thereby ensuring you still have that superb taste. As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
- Yield: to 5 Servings
- Preparation Time: 5 Minutes
- Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
- 600 600 g/1 lb 5 oz baby new potatoes, peeled
- 4 x 400–500-g/14-oz–1 lb 2-oz soles, skinned and heads removed or left on, as preferred
- 50 g/2 oz/scant ½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
- 100 g/4 oz/8 tbsp butter (75 g/3 oz/6 tbsp for the sauce and 25 g/1 oz/2 tbsp for the potatoes)
- 2 handfuls of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 Lemon
- groundnut (peanut) oil for frying
- salt and pepper
- Put the potatoes in a pan of lightly salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for 10–15 minutes or until tender. Drain and keep warm in a low oven, covered with foil.
- Coat the soles all over in the flour, brushing off any excess. Season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat some groundnut (peanut) oil for shallow frying in a large frying pan (skillet) over a high heat and fry the soles, one at a time, for 4–6 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer the soles to the oven as they cook to keep them warm. Test to see if they are cooked by pressing the backbone with a spoon and the flesh should come away easily.
- When all the soles have been fried, pour off the oil from the pan but don’t clean it.
- Add 75 g/3 oz/6 tbsp of the butter to the pan and turn off the heat. The heat the pan retains is sufficient to finish making the sauce. As soon as the butter melts and bubbles, squeeze in the juice from the lemon and add half the chopped parsley.
- Stir well and leave the sauce in the pan for 30 seconds.
- Toss the potatoes with the remaining 25 g/1 oz/2 tbsp of butter and the rest of the parsley. Season to taste with salt.
- Serve the soles with the sauce spooned over and accompanied by the potatoes.