Friday, January 23, 2015

Sole Française - Dover Sole in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated August 2020
Dover Sole
Dover Sole, the fish.
Dover Sole in France may well be on your menu as Sole Française.
The fish are the same, they just have different passports!
This member of the sole family of fishes is just called Sole or Dover Sole on U.K. menus and Sole, Sole Français, a Sole de Douvres, or Sole Bretonne on French menus. Dover sole has a firm, tight white flesh with a mild, clear taste. This sole is the fish to which all other soles and flounders are compared for flavor and texture.

The recipes created for Dover Sole are used for nearly all other soles and flounders and many other fish. (Flounders encompass several flatfish and other members of the sole family. Also, there is another fish called Dover Sole in North America, but this is a flatfish caught in the Pacific Ocean, called 'West Coast' or Pacific Dover sole, and its taste and texture cannot be compared to the European Dover sole. (On a restaurant menu when you see filets of Dover Sole you know immediately it’s not the real thing; European Dover sole may be filleted after it had been served but is never cooked as a filet).
Dover Sole on French menus:

Filets de Sole Marguery - Filets of sole cooked and served in a sauce made with white wine, butter, crème fraiche, shallots, and served decorated with shrimps and mussels.  Marguery, among restaurateurs, is thought of as more than just a great chef. Marguery was the first to organize, as an industry, the Parisian restaurants and restaurateurs. The organization he created in the late 1800s still exists.
The fish market in Capbreton,
in the department of Landes in Nouvelle Aquitaine.
Sole à la Dieppoise – Sole prepared in the manner of the port of Dieppe in Haut Normandie on France's North Atlantic coast. Here the sole will be poached in white wine with mussels and shrimps. Dieppe has always been famous as a fishing port and was always one of Paris's principal sources of fish from the Atlantic. The name Dieppe will be found in recipes for sea fish and seafood from soups to entrees, the American starter, and the main course.
Pan-fried Dover Sole
Dieppe remains an active fishing port, though it is also is a major entry and exit point for ferries to and from the U.K. and elsewhere. Many who bring their cars to France by ferry begin their French vacation in Dieppe. Paris is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Paris. If you are considering driving from Dieppe to Paris, take a break at Giverny. In Giverny are the home and garden of the artist Claud Monet, and his gardens should not be missed. The English language website with the visiting hours for the gardens and the optional costs for those very important "skip-the-line" tickets is:

The English language tourist information website for Dieppe and the area around Dieppe is:
Sole à la Nantua – Sole Prepared in the manner of the town of Nantua. Sole lightly fried and served with a covering of Sauce Nantua. Traditionally Sauce Nantua's main ingredient was the tails from the abundant local crayfish. The crayfish tails were mixed with a Béchamel Sauce made with added butter. The color and flavor of the sauce came from the crayfish's shells. Today the recipe has changed, and the crayfish, unfortunately, will not be local.  

The town of Nantua is in the department of Ain in the Rhône-Alpes, bordering Switzerland. Lake Nantua, which borders the town, is a center for water sports and just over one hour away from some of France's most popular ski resorts. If you are looking for more places with great restaurants, then make a note that Lyon is just one hour away to the South and Geneva, Switzerland, one hour away to the East., Lake Annecy, another famous French lake is one and a half hours away to the East.

The English language website for Nantua may be found at:

Lake Nantua and the town.
Sole à la Normande – Sole in the Norman manner. The sauce will include cream or crème fraîche with the fish decorated with mussels or small shellfish.

The original recipe for Sole à la Normande is credited to a chef called Langlais, which translates as The Englishman in French; I wonder how he got by in Paris with a name like that? Langlais was the chef, in the 1830s, at the then very famous Parisian restaurant Au Rocher de Cancale. His original Sole à la Normande recipe included oysters and truffles. Usually, oysters and truffles will not be in the dish on your menu today.
If you are walking around Paris, there is still a café-restaurant called Au Rocher de Cancale at the same address 78 Rue Montorgueil, in Paris's second arrondissement. Au Rocher de Cancale today offers good coffee and croissants in the morning as well as lunch and dinner menus. Today Au Rocher de Cancale is a neighborhood restaurant without pretensions. The Rue Montorgueil and the area around is a great place to wander around. The street is a permanent market street and one of the best places for buying meat and fish in Paris.

Au Rocher De Cancale, Paris/
Normandy took Langlais's recipe home, but do not be surprised if menus in Normandy offer Sole à la Normande with changes to the recipe. Normandy is also home to some of the best cider in France as well as butter, cream, creme fraiche,  Even the mussels served with your sole dish may be the unique small Moules de Bouchot de la Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel AOP,

Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy.
 When considering a visit to Normandy look at the English language website of the Normandy Tourist Board at:

Sole Bonne Femme  – Sole cooked and served in a sauce made with white wine, fresh mushrooms, and crème fraîche. The name translates as sole as made by a good housewife. Today, the name may not be politically correct; however, a well-made Sole Bonne Femme is still an outstanding recipe for Dover Sole and one of the most famous sole recipes. While the creator of Sole Bonne Femme is unknown, many chefs have used the recipe as a base upon which they have built their own creations.
Sole Duglére - A sole recipe named after its creator, one of France's most famous chefs, Adolphe Duglére (1805-1884). The sole is cooked using a recipe Duglére originally created for the fish brill and that is equally as memorable. The Dover Sole is poached in the oven with white wine, tomatoes, and crème fraîche.   

Dugléré began his career as a pupil of the most famous chef of the 19th century Antonin Carême.  Later Dugléré's would become the Chef de Cuisine at the legendary Café Anglais in Paris, and his own place in culinary history became assured. Quite a number of Dugléré's recipes are still famous today including:

Potage Germiny - A beef consommé flavored with, oseille, sorrel, and crème fraîche.

Pommes de Terre Anna - Anna potatoes. One of France's most popular potato dishes. Dugléré named the dish after a slightly infamous lady, Anna Deslions, who frequented the exclusive private dining rooms on the upper floor of the Café Anglais.
Pomme de Terre Anna.
Sole Meunière or Sole à la Meunière – Sole with a tasty but straightforward butter sauce made with lemon juice and parsley added to melted clarified butter. Meunière is often translated in error as a dish prepared in the manner of a miller's wife. One of my correspondents on French cuisine, Michel Mass, points out that the miller's wife story is another urban legend probably explained because such recipes sometimes (though not always) imply that the fish should be rolled in flour before cooking. However, the word initially related to various freshwater fish species that, in the past, went by the collective name of Meunier, most likely the then plentiful Common Bullhead, Chabot in French, and Chub, Chevaine in French. 

        Mill ponds were built close to water mills and were a haven for fish and, consequently, anglers. Today, unfortunately, we will rarely see Bullhead or Chubb on the menu, but you can order soletrout, and almost any other type of fish prepared à la meunière.  To my mind, Sole (Dover Sole) à la Meunière is the perfect fish for this sauce, but there are others that I have enjoyed only a little less.

       The preparation and serving of  Sole Meunière is an art. When the fish is ready, the server, hopefully, a true artist, will remove all the bones, along with and the head and tail using just a fish knife or a spoon and a few swift hand movements. The fileted fish will be reassembled and placed in front of the diner in less than two minutes. Then the diner may enjoy the aroma of the Sauce Meunière and enjoy the taste and texture of the greatest recipe for Dover Sole ever created.

Sole Meunière.

Julia Child and Sole Meunière
For one of her first meals in Paris, Julia Child, who brought French cuisine to the American table, ate Sole Meuniere, a simple-seeming white fish cooked in butter and lemon. In her memoir, My Life in France, she called it "the most exciting meal of my life." 
The fileting of a Sole Meunière.
Sole Véronique - Filet of Dover sole poached in white wine, covered with a white sauce, usually a Béchamel Sauce and garnished with white grapes
Sole Walewska – The dish named after Marie Walewska; a Polish Countess who became the most well-known of Napoleon I's mistresses. The original recipe called for truffles with meat from the two-clawed lobster wrapped around by a filet of Dover Sole. There may be no truffles in today's version; however, Sole Walewska today should still be Dover sole rolled around meat from the two-clawed lobster, homard, or at least meat from the rock lobster,langouste,  the owner of the lobster tail. All should be served in a wine and cognac-based sauce.
Dover Sole in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan - Llenguado,  (German - zunge or Seezunge), (Italian- sogliola, sogliola volgar, soglia vera, sogliola comune),  (Spanish – lenguado, lenguado común),  (Latin - solea solea).
Dover Sole in other languages:

(Chinese (Mandarin) -欧洲), (Croation – list), (Danish - almindelig tunge), (Dutch – tong),  (Egyptian Arabic - soul shaea), (Greek -  Γλώσσα , glosa),  (Hebrew – sole, moshe rabenu -סולית מצויה), (Icelandic -  sölflúra), (Norweguan – tunge), (Portuguese - sola zwyczajna), (Swedish – tunga), (Turkish - dil balığı). Help with some of the translations come from Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2014. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication., version (08/2014).

Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
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