Crisp Paupiettes of Sea Bass in Barolo Sauce


These succulent sea bass fillets are wrapped in paper-thin russet potato slices to create a crisp crust.

Crisp Paupiettes of Sea Bass in Barolo Sauce

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Risha Carnes

Active Time:
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs
4 servings

Just before Daniel Boulud took over as executive chef of Le Cirque in New York City in 1986, he spent some time in Lyon, France, cooking with the legendary chef Paul Bocuse. Boulud was impressed by a dish Bocuse made of red mullet encased in thin slices of potato, which were carefully cut in rounds to mimic the scales of the fish itself. The crispiness of the potatoes offered a textural contrast to the delicate fish within; it was, according to Boulud, like a new-age take on fish and chips.

Bocuse’s inspiration for this dish had come from another chef, Frédy Girardet, who was then making fish encased in tiny “scales” of sliced zucchini at a restaurant in Crissier, Switzerland. When Boulud returned to New York, he created his own version of the dish using sea bass, Idaho potatoes, leeks, and Barolo. (He chose Barolo for the sauce to connect the dots between his French cooking and the Italian roots of Sirio Maccioni, Le Cirque’s owner.) The result, Crisp Paupiettes of Sea Bass in Barolo Sauce, Boulud refers to as “a succession of inspiration.” In 1988, the year Boulud became a F&W Best New Chef­ (and the inaugural year the accolade was awarded), F&W noted that the dish was one of Boulud’s specialties. (“The potato is very crisp, and the fish is very moist,” he is quoted as saying.)

Boulud left Le Cirque in 1992. In 1993, when he opened Restaurant Daniel on the Upper East Side, he brought the paupiette recipe with him. The paupiette remained a staple of Daniel’s menu, and the recipe was published in Food & Wine in 1999. But around 2010, the executive chef at Daniel told Boulud that they should take the paupiette off of the menu so that the kitchen could evolve.

“I couldn’t believe that my chef challenged me with my own dish,” Boulud says. “That was the most popular dish we ever had.” Boulud agreed to make the change so long as his team created a new, unexpected dish using the same ingredients. To this day, the original paupiette has not made another appearance on the menu at Daniel—but every six months, the team creates a new interpretation using black sea bass, leek, potato, and red wine sauce.

Around the same time that the paupiette left the menu at Daniel, chef Gavin Kaysen (a 2007 F&W Best New Chef) put it on the menu at the now-closed Café Boulud. Kaysen’s rendition stayed true to the original except for one addition: He added mashed potato underneath the fish—something creamy to contrast with the paupiette’s crunch.

If the original paupiette ever returns to Daniel, it’s likely that Boulud won’t change a thing. “Some dishes we work over and over, every year doing a new interpretation because it’s a new season and we have a new menu,” he says. “But with the paupiette, there’s nothing to reinvent.” — Nina Friend


Sea bass

  • 4 (4 1/2-ounce) skinless sea bass fillets

  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus thyme leaves for garnish

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 2 large (1-pound) russet potatoes, peeled

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, meleted

Barolo sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots

  • 1/2 cup sliced white mushroom caps (from 3 medium-size button mushrooms)

  • 1 small (3-inch) thyme sprig

  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock

  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle Barolo or other full-bodied dry red wine

  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (4 ounces), cut into 8 (1-tablespoon) pieces

  • 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Additional ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, divided

  • 3 large leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced (about 1 3/4 cups)

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives


Make the sea bass

  1. Trim each fillet into a 5- x 1 1/2-inch rectangle. Sprinkle fillets evenly with thyme, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

  2. Cut lengthwise to trim off the two rounded sides of each potato, creating a block-like shape; discard trimmed edges of potatoes. (Do not cut off end tips of potatoes.) Using a mandoline or hand-slicer, slice potatoes lengthwise into 32 very thin slices. Brush both sides of slices with melted butter, and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

  3. To make each paupiette, arrange 4 potato slices on a 10-inch sheet of wax paper, slightly overlapping slices to create a 5-inch-wide rectangle. Place 4 additional overlapping potato slices over the top 1 inch of the rectangle to create a longer 5-inch-wide rectangle. Place a fish fillet horizontally in center of potato rectangle. Wrap potatoes over and around fish, using the wax paper to guide slices, sealing and enclosing the fillet. Repeat process, creating 3 more paupiettes. Cover and refrigerate paupiettes at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the Barolo sauce

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Add shallots, mushrooms, and thyme sprig; cook, stirring often, until softened and shallots begin to turn golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. (If needed, adjust heat to prevent burning.) Add stock, and bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is almost completely reduced, about 10 minutes.

  2. Add wine, and bring to a boil over high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wine is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 30 minutes. Stir in cream, and bring to a simmer over low. Gradually add cold butter, whisking constantly to emulsify until smooth. Remove from heat, and whisk in sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour sauce through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a small bowl or saucepan, pressing on solids to remove any liquid; discard solids. Keep sauce warm.

  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium. Add leeks, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and wilted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper; keep warm.

  4. Heat oil and remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium. Add paupiettes, and cook, flipping once using a large spatula, until potatoes are tender and golden, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Turn each paupiette to brown the narrow sides and finish cooking the fish, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large plate.

  5. Spoon leeks evenly onto 4 warmed plates, and ladle Barolo sauce evenly around leeks. Set paupiettes on top of leeks, and top evenly with chives. Garnish each serving with thyme leaves; serve immediately.

Suggested pairing

Fragrant, full-bodied Barolo: G.D. Vajra Albe

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