In Chapter 7, Part III of her book My Life in France, Julia Child enthuses about the dish she was served at a restaurant called L’Oasis in La Napoule while preparing the recipes to be included in her second volume on French cooking: loup de mer en croûte. The loup she was served contained Mediterranean sea bass, stuffed with herbs and baked in a brioche crust in the shape of a fish, served with a sauce suprême, or chicken stock-based white sauce. “The moment it came out of the kitchen — enormous, brown, and glistening — we knew this dish was something special,” she writes. “With each helping of fish we received a portion of crust, a big spoonful of the creamy, buttery suprême, and another of fresh tomato nicely flavored with shallots and herbs. The crust was thin and gently crunchy; and the fish was beautifully juicy, tender, and lightly flavored with fennel.”
Naturally, the quest was on for Julia and her coauthor to learn how to produce this dish for themselves so a recipe could be included in Volume II of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Topped with a crust brushed with egg yolk, their creation turned out deliciously — and it sounds as if they had just as much fun creating the pastry “fish” decorations as they did the rest of the meal.
Our variation on Julia’s dish uses a combination of salmon and halibut, flavored with fennel, parsley, tomato and shallots. Rather than a brioche crust, ours will employ puff pastry for more of a flaky rather than “bready” texture. But don’t worry: our crust, too, will be styled to resemble a fish. For sauce, although there are several ways one can go, we have chosen the hollandaise option. You’ll have to let us know how you like it.