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. The result is not just delicious but delights guests.
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 St 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.
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.
This gourmet topping is referred to as à la viennoise. It’s when you coat the fish with buttered parmesan breadcrumbs and fry it. Here, the topping is added at the last minute and quickly finished off under the grill.
Herb Parmesan Crust for Fish – Great 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!
Herb-hugging Viennoise Crust for John Dory Fish (or Cod/Hake)
See printable recipe below.
4 John Dory fillets
100g block of parmesan, freshly grated
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme (or dried seaweed)
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.
Herb Hugging John Dory Fish
- 4 John Dory Fish fillets or cod, hake
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.