A Thousand Layers of Fish
(Mille Feuilles de Poisson or
Feuillete de Poisson)
This is our recreation of a dish that we had for lunch at a beach restaurant called
"Club 55" in St. Tropez. It's a brightly flavored combination of thin slices of
fish, thinly sliced lemons and tomatoes napped with olive oil. The most surprising
features of the dish are the leaves of lettuce that separate each layer of ingredients to
make the "mille feuilles" and the very slow and long cooking time.
For us, this dish evokes memories of languid lunches sitting at tables covered with
blue and white Provençal tablecloths under the filtered shade of the tamarisk trees,
sipping the house wine, "Rosé Club".
We recreated the dish with great success using ingredients available to us in San
Francisco. But we couldn't recreate the warm embracing air and sun of St.Tropez. Perhaps
you'll have better luck!
Preparing the Ingredients:
Have on hand all of the following:
1 ½ lb of firm, flavorful fish
3 whole, organic lemons
4 very ripe, flavorful tomatoes
1-2 head of butter lettuce
- Whether you're using a whole fillet or pieces of a fillet, slice them evenly at a very
shallow angle on the diagonal to make thin flat pieces.Sprinkle each piece with a little
- Scrub the lemons under water with a bristle brush and slice them into very, very thin
rounds. (A mandolin is essential for this. You can't slice them thinly enough with a
knife.) Remove all seeds.
- Immerse the tomatoes in hot water for a few minutes or char them over a gas flame and
then peel them. Cut in half and seed. Then cut each half into thin slices. Let the slices
drain on a wire rack until you're ready to assemble the dish.
- If you're using butter lettuce, it will be supple enough to handle without blanching.
But if you're using firmer, denser lettuce, you'll have to blanch each leaf lettuce in
very hot water for w few seconds to make it supple enough to handle. No matter what kind
of lettuce you use, cut out as much of the mid-rib as you can, leaving just the green
- Select a deep (i.e at least 4" deep) square or a long oblong-shaped
ceramic baking. Coat the bottom and sides of your pan with olive oil.
- Start layering ingredients in the following order: fish | lemons | lettuce | tomatoes.
Drizzle each layer with a little olive oil. Repeat the layers to use up all the
ingredients. Put a cover of lettuce over the last layer and tuck the ends down the sides
as far as you can reach (i.e. ½" or so). This will help to seal in the juices while
- Dip a few lemons slices in olive oil and use them to make a decorative arrangement on
- Bake in a very, very slow oven (i.e. 225°) for 1 ½ hours.
Serve a slice in your hot bouillabaisse bowls and spoon the lemony flavored cooking
juices over each feuillete slice. Serve with basmati rice.
- Let the feuillete rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to retract before serving. If
you have used an oblong baking dish, then slice the feuillete into 1½" - 2"
Fish: Select a local fish in your area that has a
firm white flesh. In San Francisco, I use a large fillet of red snapper or ling cod. Sole
would be too fine, halibut to oily and swordfish too dry.
Lemons: Since you'll be using the whole lemon,
including the outer peel, use lemons that have not been sprayed with pesticides. Select
lemons that have a smooth, thin outer peel and very little white pith. The pith is bitter
and if there's too much of it, it will impart an unpleasant sharpness. For this dish to
succeed, you must slice the lemons as thinly as possible so they can "melt"
during cooking. This can only be done with a mandolin.
Oblong: An oblong shape is the best so the cooked
feuillete can be sliced to show all the layers. You should select the size of the baking
pan relative to the amount of ingredients so you can get at least 3 sets of layers. An
8" x 5" paté baker is an ideal size and shape to make a 2-person serving. If
you only have a square baking dish, then serve the feuillete cut into 3" squares.
Lemony Cream Sauce: If you want to
gussy-up this dish (and don't care about the calories), you could serve this sauce with it
a Lemony Cream Sauce:Reduce a ½ cup of white wine with 2 TBS lemon juice until it begins
to look a little "syrupy". Add 1 pt. of heavy cream and reduce the entire
mixture by half. Lightly season with sea salt and pepper. Taste. Add more lemon juice if