January 20, 2011

Miller's Wife Trout

We'd been talking about it long enough. Ever since reading the charming account of Julia Child's first meal in France, Sole a la Meuniere, and then seeing it so darlingly reinacted by Meryl Streep, My Baby and I have wished for this dish, too. For some erroneous reason, I'd assumed that its preparation would be intimidating and difficult, to be mastered only by a toque blanched French chef, tableside. How very, very silly of me! This turned out to be one of the most delicious home meals I can ever remember. That it was quick and easy just adds to its delight.

My Baby took some decisive action the other day. He purchased a whole, beautiful Idaho trout and issued the proclamation that it would become trout a la meuniere. After flipping through a few cookbooks for some guidance, we learned that it is quite simple and upon eating it learned that the rewards are quite generous. Here we will walk you through the steps, which are not so much a recipe as a process.

First, start with impeccable ingredients. Sole or trout fillets, the freshest you can find. As for the butter, we used some from our local creamery, but a European butter would not be lost in this application. A plateful of all-purpose flour, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. (A la Meuneire translates to "of the miller's wife", cleverly suggesting that she might dust everything she cooks in flour.) Fresh flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped. And, a lemon. That's it. Each ingredient shines though clearly in its simplicity in this dish, including the salt. Use the best you can find.

Of all dishes, this is one to call upon all your mis en place skills:
  • Fillet your fish, if purchased whole. Pat it quite dry. Salt and pepper fillets lightly.
  • Quarter a stick of butter lengthwise into batons. (You may or may not use all the butter, depending on the size of your skillet, the number of fillets you'll be cooking, and how much butter sauce you desire to pour over the cooked fillets, but have it ready to make those decisions by instinct as you go along.)
  • Spread flour on a large dinner plate and lightly season with salt and pepper. You'll know how much
  • Chop your parsley, and have it handy.
  • Wedge your lemon.
  • Warmed serving plates are nice here.
  • Have the other components of your meal nearly done before beginning to cook the trout. This is also a time when two chefs in the kitchen are better than one... One can focus on the fish, the other on the accompaniments. (My Baby took the fish duty, and it was fascinating to watch.)
Heat a heavy skillet (we used our large cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is heated, be prepared to move with focus and speed.

Drop in one or two of the butter batons, just enough to cover the bottom of your skillet about 1/8" deep. As it is melting but not yet beginning to brown, dash your fillets over the flour on the plate and shake off any excess.

Once the butter is bubbling nicely, place the fillets in the pan, skin-side down. Saute one or two minutes. Turn with a wide spatula and saute for another one or two minutes, until the fish feels springy when lightly pressed. Top and bottom should be lightly browned and ever so slightly crisp. Remove to your warm plates, and sprinkle the fillets generously with parsley.

Wipe out your skillet with paper towels and place it over high heat. Add as much of the remaining butter as you are in the mood for (I say go for it!), and once it is bubbling hot, pour it over the fish. The parsley will sizzle and become very fragrant. Serve with dispatch, with lemon wedges nuzzled in to squeeze atop. (This is not inconsequential... the acid is necessary to balance the richness of this lovely dish.)

Since our fish came a little farther than 100 miles, and I hate to admit that we broke down and purchased out-of-season far-far-away asparagus- (look how chopstick thin it was!!! A mere dash into a hot toaster oven with a whisper of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt was all that was needed for perfect, al dente spears. Do you blame us for lack of restraint?)- to assuage our larger than necessary carbon footprint guilt we definitely choose a wine from the within 100-mile radius criteria.

Pyranees Vineyard and Cellars in the Umpqua Valley AVA is a new up-and-comer. Their 2006 Chardonnay pointed nicely to the trout without vying for center stage. A marigold nose, crisp apple, light vanilla and butter on the palate, and a lilting acidity come together harmoniously but quietly in this nice bottle. We look forward to more food-pairing experimentation with Pyranees wines.

Many contented sighs were uttered during this shared dinner hour. When years of talking and wishing actualize into something as appealing as this Trout Meuniere, it makes me ask, "What took us so long?" and, "What else shall we try next?"


  1. I don't anything can top fresh fish, simply and perfectly prepared. And you told your story so well. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I'm reading As Always Julia, a book of her letters during the time that she was creating Art of French Cooking. It's a fun read and I see Meryl Streep every time I imagine a one of the book's scenes in my head. Lovely trout and recipe instructions!

  3. What a fab re-make - I just love this meal.

  4. I love trouts. Thank you for sharing this recipe with us!

  5. My favorite preparation for fish! What a lovely meal!!

  6. Your meal looks amazing, with all of the components chosen so carefully . this is such a lovely post. Your instructions are very easy to follow, and they're aren't that many ingredients.

  7. Such a romantic dinner! How lovely :)

  8. Manages to look classy, nostalgic, and wonderfully home-made all at once. Absolute adoration of this recipe and post. Thank you.

    - Anthony


  9. Great fish recipe! You really made it easy to follow. Thanks for sharing.

  10. The trout looks delicious! It's the best way to eat fresh fish.

  11. I'm just starting (as a new Idaho resident) to cook with trout. And I brought some home yesterday. Now I know exactly what to do with it.

  12. What a beauty! Beautiful work and such a treat. I love running to Fitts(our local fish market) and scoping out all the fresh fish for inspiration. I would love to do this dish.

  13. Hi, Pam, so glad to find your blog and have a new FB friend! I'm an Oregonian-wannabe so I will be following you through your adventures... you can probably hear my sighs of Oregon-envy all the way from MD.
    ; )

  14. Beautiful meal! What time shall I arrive for dinner?

  15. I agree. Go for it on the butter! This looks wonderful.

  16. Pam, what a wonderful presentation of this meal which we also enjoy many times each summer. A tasty twist is to catch the trout and then prepare them there in view of the water where they were harvested. As you said, the prep is "quite simple" and to breath the air of the river while tasting the trout from those waters is really appealing. Gives a new meaning to tasting the terrior of a place.

  17. This is probably my all time favorite meal and I had to hang on to your every word to simply enjoy the moment. Cheers.

  18. I hang at the door waiting on trout season here in the mountains! Love the preparation!

  19. I don't actually have much experience with recipes from Julia Child but I do know that she was quite a character. She was on TV on station WGBH which was one of my local PBS stations when I was kid. I remember watching it with my mom. Her personality is something I have always thought would be an asset to me in my food adventures. I'm trying Julia. I apologize for not cooking more of your wonderful recipes.

    I'd say you nailed it, and of course you can't go wrong with a local wine!


  20. This is a favorite dish of mine and you did a beautiful job...looks amazing :)

  21. Wow !! I like the pictures and will surely try this out soon..


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