SLOW-BAKED SEA BASS POMMES LYONNAISE, LEEK ROYALE
SOME WORKS of art stay with you forever. I often think of my mentors’ classic recipes as true works of art. In the mid-1980s, I visited Frédy Girardet in Switzerland, where I savored a fillet of red mullet covered with tiny discs of zucchini to mirror the scales of the fish. Paul Bocuse then made his own version by switching to the more versatile potato “scales,” creating a crispy skin. Once at Le Cirque in New York, I developed my own take with the local black sea bass on a bed of leeks and doused with a rich red wine sauce. It instantly became the most popular dish on the menu and a new classic was born! In the kitchen, the trick is to roast the potatoes to a golden crisp while the fish cooks gently inside the shell. In Cooking with Daniel Boulud, my first cookbook, I introduced the original recipe. After more than twenty years on my menu, it took Eddy Leroux, our chef de cuisine, three years to convince me to take the sea bass en paupiette off, and then only under the condition that we were going to keep the combination of black sea bass, potato, leeks, thyme, and red wine sauce because I couldn’t part with the elements that made that dish a success. In fact, Leroux kept the exact same ingredients but played with them in completely different ways. For example, thyme, which found itself sprinkled on the fish in my original version, now infuses the potatoes, mixed with garlic and onions. The texture of the fish, which cooks in its own steam while encased in the potato scales, is similar in this new version, something we achieve by baking it wrapped in parchment paper.