Fr. Z’s Kitchen: Sole Food!

Never take for granted the love of a Good Woman.

Therefore, when one of my readers mentioned in the combox a recipe called Sole Bonne Femme, “Good Woman”, I determined to get me some o’ that love.

Since I was out and about when I read that comment on my phone, I pulled up Julia Child’s recipe to spot the ingredients before my routine stop at the grocer.

Fish on Friday, right?

Sole Bonne Femme is a way to poach fillets of fish and the creation of a sauce from the poaching liquid.  Bonne Femme is made with mushrooms.  There is a variation with the flesh of tomatoes.  I don’t recall the name of the chef who concocted it.  (Aside: “concoct”… from Latin concoquo – “boil or seeth together”.)

The portobello were on sale.  Then, parsley, shallot, clam juice, white wine and, of course, the fillets of sole, not on sale, alas, but I only needed two.


Note… I had the green beans on the side.  Nothing fancy.  Quickly microwaved and dressed with lemon juice.

I used a combination of the larger slices of mushrooms and minced, with minced shallot and chopped parsley as my base in the glass casserole.

IMG_0979 IMG_0980

Lay the fillets over the base.


Meanwhile, I’m pre-heating my toaster oven to 350°F.

Because the poaching time is really short, lest you overcook, and because I don’t have a stove but only an induction hotplate, and since the container I had to use was glass… I preheated the poaching liquid.

My wine was Mâcon Village, which I used for the meal, and clam juice (because I had no fish stock) and, later, cream.


Adding the now hot poaching liquid.


Into the toaster oven.   It took a little longer than I thought it might to get the liquid to a simmer, so I checked the fillets fairly often by touch and color. Do NOT over cook fish!

It would be easier to make this on a larger scale than for just one person.

Anyway, I pulled the fillets and kept them warm on a covered plate on top of the oven.



Working fast, I brutally reduced my filtered poaching liquid, and then whipped up a roux…


Added my reduction…


The thickening process was smooth and easy.  I added some lemon juice to give it a little more pop.


I arranged the fillets on a pool of sauce with the large mushroom slices, spooning the minced mix into the center.  Believe me, I went back for more sauce after this photo!  It was really good, winey and mushroomy and shalloty and creamy.

Sole Bonne Femme!


And I got out one of my prized .  Also, HERE.


The aftermath.


It was nice to eat like a civilized person.  I haven’t been, lately.

Now that I have made this once, I know better what to do the next time.  I have a few ideas about how to improve my technique.

Cooking doesn’t have to be terribly complicated.  You need a little conviction and imagination.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Fr. Z's Kitchen and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. St. Rocco says:

    Conviction, *convection*, and imagination!

  2. Auggie says:

    I would definitely watch the Fr. Z cooking show:
    “What Does the Recipe Really Say?”

  3. Charles E Flynn says:

    Is this the first appearance on your blog of those superior Japanese knives, with their smaller bevel angles and the blades that have nothing obstructing sharpening their entire length?

    [I’m not sure, but it is possible!]

  4. JARay says:

    Very interesting cooking lesson. I eat less and less these days. I merely bought a pack of three scottish kippers. I put them in my microwave. They were delicious. We are talking about fish on Fridays aren’t we!

  5. Michael says:

    Using vegetables as a cooking base is excellent. I use carrots, celery, and onion instead of a rack when roasting chicken, a trick I picked up from Alton Brown. They keep the chicken up and out of its own juices. And once you’re done they make a delicious accompaniment to the chicken. [Try a bed of thinly sliced potatoes, chopped onions, thyme and/or rosemary. It is good with different kinds of roasts, especially long roasting juicy roasts. I did this a few years ago.


  6. That’s amazing.
    And clam juice, hmmmmm.
    You prove the adage “don’t blame the tools for a poor result” [or something like that].

    Unless its really quick, I prefer to cook fishy stuff outside. Wondering if you have a considered a propane grill or burner. Then you can at least have a real flame. [wish list!] And good practice for your SHTF prepping skills. lol.

  7. Michael says:

    Thanks, Fr. Z. That looks delicious. I look forward to trying it.

    [Let us know how it turned out!]

  8. Marg says:

    I have those same plates…yours look much newer though.

    [I think I bought them at KMart about 15 years ago. Of course mine don’t get as much use since I live alone and most of the time I eat out of a large indestructible plastic bowl I bough in a Chinese grocery or out of one of those French bowl/cups with a handle.]

  9. frjim4321 says:


  10. pannw says:

    Wow…that looks so much better than my canned salmon salmon patties did. Oh, if only I weren’t the only one in my family who will eat mushrooms!

    [The variation is called Sole Dugléré – for the mushrooms substitute tomato concassé (peeled, seeded, chopped)]

  11. Diane says:


    The things you cook always look so complicated but delicious. I am very impressed by your talent in the kitchen! Wish I was a neighbor who could drop by for a taste once in a while! :o)

    [Some are complicated. This was less complicated than the meatloaf I made out of various scraps last night.]

  12. stuart reiss says:

    The joint looks jolly spiffing…
    M. Raymond Blanc suggests a trivet made from bones (preferable with marrow as the jus is incroyable) to slow roast a lamb shoulder for six hours with a bouquet garni of thyme rosemary and bay leaf..and a thin layer of dry white wine….I tried it for a Sunday lunch, and was able to eat the lamb with a spoon. The family thought I was a genius.

  13. stuart reiss says:

    I’d watch the Fr Z “what does the recipe really say” programme too….

  14. rahalpern says:

    Beautiful adaptation, Father. I especially liked your addition of the lemon juice. Btw “Bonne Femme” in Fremch cooking, I believe, means “Housewife Style.” Bon Appetit.

  15. PostCatholic says:

    Very glad you tried it! And enjoyed it! Now you can never say I have been nothing but trouble.

    The chef’s name you couldn’t remember is Adolphe Dugléré, the inventor of Pommes Anna. This is an extremely versatile dish: add shellfish to the mushroom base and you have “Sole a la Normande;” the tomato version you described is “Sole Dugléré;” the shellfish version minus mushrooms (mussels, clams, shrimp) is “Sole Marguery;” with mirepoix and leeks, it’s “Sole a la Bretonne;” you can do a “Waldorf” version with celery, apples cubes, some applejack and walnuts; I’ve even watched a friend improvise a surprisingly delicious version with pineapple slices and fennel—let’s call that “Sole Alison” after the chef who came up with it. Once you make one of these a few times, you have all of them commited to your repertoire and skip the recipe. My favorite variation is “Sole Véronique,” made with sweet chardonnay or otherwise very sweet grapes. If you reserve a few chiled grapes from those you make with the base to add at the end, it’s a lovely contrast of flavors.

    Trader Joes, if there is a store near you, often has frozen “Dover” (really Californian, I think) sole on offer. Because this is such a tasty and easy dish to prepare at last minute for a dinner party, and because it’s a very safe bet there’s mushrooms in the fridge around here, we usually have a few packages in our big freezer. I also always use the clam juice; I prefer the result to that made with fish stock anyway. Cough-cough years ago as a wedding gift we received a covered round poaching casserole from Portugal that is painted with a fish design which is perfect for the sole/white wine dishes.

  16. Te_Deum says:

    That really looks good, Fr. Z.

    Also, the one time I made the chicken on a bed of root vegetables, it was the tastiest ever. But, a little warning to those with no gall bladders or gall bladder issues – they soak of all of the fat. That’s why I only did it once. LOL

  17. The Cobbler says:

    “Today’s meal comes to us from the 4th century recipes of St. Ambrose. The word ‘saute’ means to bounce or leap; our food should improve by leaps and bounds when we cook it, as should the faith of our guests who will consume it. Further, ‘filet’ has martial origins… Notice the parallelism between the mixing of the sauce in the first half of the preparation and the boiling in the second half… Slavishly literal rendition: ‘Lord, accept this burnt offering as you accepted the offering of Abel, who leapt to your service, that being boiled by our sufferings in this passing world we may in the next be acclaimed “good and faithful servant, well done”. Vouchsafe that we should not remain rare…’ Obsolete ICEL rendition: ‘Microwave on high for five minutes and serve with girl scout cookies.’ You decide.”

    Would definitely watch such a cooking show.

  18. The Cobbler says:

    On another note, I’ve been told that the section of… Proverbs, I think it was?… that talks about the virtues of a “good wife” actually said something more like “woman of valor”, as in the same language used to describe the likes of Daniel and Samson. So maybe it’s not so much of a stretch to say that a recipe like this could have military imagery…

Comments are closed.