Why It Can Be Difficult To Make Authentic Sole Meunière

Sole meunière is one of the lighter entrees you can get at a French restaurant; you'll usually find this simple lemony fish tucked in the menu somewhere alongside other standard French dishes like boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin. According to Serious Eats, the tender, flaky fish fillet is lightly coated in flour — supposedly this dish gets the latter part of its name from this flour dredge as meunière means miller's wife in French — and then browned ever-so-slightly in a pan of clarified butter. After that, it's drowned in a browned butter and lemon sauce.

Thanks to its short cooking time and few ingredients, sole meunière seems to be a relatively easy French dish to prepare, a quick dish to add sophistication to your dinner table. However, creating an authentic sole meunière goes beyond the meunière-ing process, and is more difficult than it seems. 

You need real Dover sole

Meunièring your fish is only half the battle. Having the right sole is what separates a fish meunière from an authentic sole meunière. The sole in sole meunière is Dover sole, which is really only found in Europe, along the Eastern Atlantic, from Norway to the Mediterranean Sea and central Africa, per Chef's Resources. The Dover sole is quite expensive and hard to find in America, making it a true delicacy.

The sole that you can find in America is actually Pacific Dover, which is a flounder advertised as a sole (via Chef's Resources). This flounder can be an okay substitute since it has a white, flaky flesh like the Dover sole. However, French chefs prefer true Dover sole in their sole meunière, thanks to its mild and sweet flavor profile. Chef Ludo Lefebvre of Petit Trois shares with Mind of a Chef that it is quite a challenge to find real French sole in California, because the best Dover sole is found in Brittany, France. Chef Ludo explains that with a true sole meunière the delicate Dover sole is cooked gently and split into two so that the fish's bones slide out in one piece. In the finished product, the Dover sole is then put back together and presented as if still in one piece.

Ultimately, if a Dover sole from Brittany is out of reach or outside your pocketbook, then a true sole meunière might be off the table. However, if lemon, browned butter, and fish sound delectable, you can try cooking this trout meunière recipe, which takes the pressure off of aiming for authenticity.