Looking for something delicious to make with John Dory? Here’s my favourite Parisian restaurant style fish made at home yet so easy to prepare in advance. This Viennoise style topping is a buttery herb and parmesan crust that hugs the fish under the grill.
John Dory Fish (St Pierre in French)
The signs were all there. First this one, rue St Pierre – or St Peter’s Street- looked down on me as my keys dropped to the ground.
Was I heading for the Pearly Gates to say b-b-b-onjour?
Thankfully to my relief, the sign appeared again a few minutes’ later at the local market in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Saint Pierre – or John Dory – was laid out beautifully chez le poissonier. Taking it as the real sign, it was high time to do something with this gorgeously thick fish fillet.
What is à la Viennoise in French Cooking?
After tasting an incredible fish dish in Paris with a herb crust on a fillet of cod, I found a recipe by French chef, Vincent David. It looks sophisticated with a herb crust that actually clings to the fish. It’s not a breadcrumb topping piled high but a thin and elegant topping that has a savoury tuile effect (for my sweet recipe, see French tuiles).
This gourmet topping is referred to as à la viennoise. It’s when you coat the fish with a mixture of buttered parmesan with breadcrumbs.
By rolling it out, it turns into a thin, flat topping that can be cut to size directly over the fish. This topping is added at the last minute and quickly finished off under the grill when it literally hugs the fish and the result is pretty on the plate as well as delicious.
Great Make-Ahead Prep for Freezing
I’ve made this so many times for guests that I’ve experimented. The good news? The topping freezes well, especially as you’ll have some left over.
Cut the topping into fillet portions and stack each slice between baking parchment and seal in a container in the freezer. Use just at the last minute when needed, grilling just a minute longer. It’s one less thing to worry about if you’re entertaining guests!
How to Make a Viennoise Herb Crust for John Dory
See printable recipe below. John Dory fish can be replaced with cod, hake or mahi-mahi.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and mix in the breadcrumbs, parmesan and garlic. Here I added a tablespoon of dried seaweed (found in Asian supermarkets) but you can add freshly chopped herbs if you prefer.
Spread the mixture out on to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.
3. Top with another baking parchment sheet and roll it out until it’s flat and even (about 3mm thickness). Place in the fridge to set.
8. Season the fish fillets and fry in some olive oil and butter gently until just cooked; no more than 5 minutes, depending on thickness. Keep bathing the fish in the juices.
The viennoise topping is now ready to cut out of the fridge. If you have any extra, cut them into portions, place each between the paper and freeze until needed.
Place the fish in a roasting tin, layer the topping on top of it and melt it under the grill for a couple of minutes.
Just placing it under the grill gives a magical effect: the topping just hugs the fish like they were meant to be together.
Serve on a bed of vegetables and surround with my favourite smoked tea beurre blanc sauce. Enjoy with a chilled glass of white Burgundy.
John Dory with Viennoise Crust
- 4 John Dory Fish fillets (or cod, hake, mahi-mahi)
Viennoise Topping (herb & parmesan crust for fish)
- 100 g (3.5oz) butter
- 100 g (3.5oz) breadcrumbs
- 100 g (3.5oz) parmesan grated (from a fresh block, not from a packet)
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and mix in the breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic and herbs. Here I added a tablespoon of dried seaweed (found in Asian supermarkets) instead for something a bit different.
- Spread the mixture out on to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.
- Top with another baking parchment sheet and roll it out until it’s flat and even (about 3mm thickness). Place in the fridge to set for about 30 minutes.
- The viennoise topping is now ready to cut. If you have any extra, cut them into portions, place each between the paper and freeze until needed.
- Place the fish in a roasting tin, layer the topping on top of it and melt it under the grill for a couple of minutes.
- Just placing it under the grill gives a magical effect: the topping just hugs the fish like they were meant to be together.