Always Know Who You’re Talking To!

Let me start by sharing a cooking tip. Never make a recipe for the first time when you are having guests for dinner. 

Several years ago we were watching one of our favorite cooking shows.  The contestants were taken to Le Cirque.  (For over 40 years, Le Cirque has offered an unparalleled dining experience earning its place on New York’s gastronomical landscape.) The fledgling cooks where lead to believe this dinner was a time to relax, kick-back, and enjoy some of the best food in NYC. Perhaps, even, to drink an extra glass of wine, or two. Well, that’s not how it played out. When they returned to the kitchen the following morning they were instructed to replicate the Le Crique menu they had experienced the night before. Now understand they were not provided any recipes or assistance. All they had to work with were muddy palates and brain-fog from the night before. The outcome was not a pretty site, one could only image how terrible each attempt tasted.

Jim in his ever-charming (but cocky) fashion stated that he could recreate the dishes. I agreed that he might be able to accomplish the menu with the exception of the fish, “Crisp Paupiette of Sea Bass (wrapped in Potatoes) on Leeks with White Wine Sauce.”  He replied that he was pretty confident he could. We pretty much left it at that, we agreed to disagree.

About two weeks went by, I had invited a tennis buddy and her husband over for dinner, we knew her very well but had never met the husband. Jim announces he’s going to make that fish from Le Crique. I pleaded with him to make something less aggressive, something he’s familiar with, but no his mind was made up.

So our guests arrive, introductions are made and we sat down to have a glass of wine before dinner. Small talk begins and Jim asks the husband what he does for a living. The husband replies, “I’m a professional Chef, I own a restaurant in Sun Valley, Idaho.” Ooops!

I won’t keep you in suspense, Jim’s dinner was amazing. Husband was not immediately complimentary, he kept Jim sitting on the edge of his seat, waiting for a reaction, finally the Chef pronounced it delicious, whew! A week later the Chef called and requested the recipe. Jim didn’t have one but he did spend the next two days writing it. We’ve had it once since that evening. Perhaps I can talk him into making for me again soon.


Author: Jim Kirkley

A derivation of a Recipe from Le Cirque Restaurant in NYC

Serves: 4

Crisp Paupiette of Sea Bass on Leeks with White Wine Sauce


4 filets of Sea Bass, Cod, or Haddock
salt and freshly ground black pepper – for potatoes
4 sprigs, fresh thyme – stripped of leaves for fish seasoning
3 tablespoons, unsalted butter for potatoes
2 large, cooking potatoes (Yukon Gold) – see directions
2 leeks – cleaned and thinly sliced
1 cup, shiitake mushroom – sliced
2 tablespoons, butter – for leeks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons, unsalted butter – for fish
1 cup, white wine
3 sprigs, fresh thyme – whole for sauce
parchment paper
1 tablespoon, chives – minced for garnish


  1. Make each fillet as rectangular as possible (about 5 inches by 2 inches) by trimming off uneven edges with a sharp knife. Salt and pepper the fillets and sprinkle them with a teaspoon of the chopped thyme.
  2. Using a knife, shape each potato lengthwise by cutting off the rounded outer flesh to form 2 rectangular blocks (do not cut off the tips of the potatoes).
  3. Cut each potato lengthwise into very thin, long slices with a vegetable slicer or mandoline. Each potato should yield about 16 slices (8 slices are needed to wrap 1 fish fillet). Do not rinse the potato slices as their starch will help the wrapped slices stick together.
  4. Toss the potato slices in melted butter and a pinch of salt.
  5. Place a 10-inch square piece of parchment paper on the counter. Choose 8 potato slices of approximately the same length. Place a fillet of fish horizontally at the top of the parchment paper so you can match the length of the potato wrap to the length of the fish.
  6. Place the first slice of potato perpendicular to the fish starting on the left side. Place a second slice overlapping the first one by about 3/8 inch from the left edge. Continue overlapping the potato slices until you have covered an area equal to the length of the fillet of fish.
  7. Center the fish horizontally in the middle of the potato wrap and fold the edges of the potatoes over the fish to enclose it entirely. Repeat the same process for the remaining fillets and refrigerate.
  8. For the leeks: melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large non-stick sauce pan. Add the shitake mushrooms and a touch of salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes. Add the leeks and a bit more salt and cook until lightly browned. Set aside and keep warm.
  9. For the sauce: melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan. When melted add 3 sprigs of fresh thyme and cook for a minute. Add wine and reduce until 4-5 tablespoons remain. Remove thyme and keep warm.
  10. To cook the paupiette of sea bass, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick pan over high heat. Add the paupiettes of fish and saute until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. If the fish is very thick, finish cooking in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes.
  11. Place a bed of leeks in the middle of 4 warm serving plates and ladle the sauce around the leeks (about 2 tablespoons per plate). Place a paupiette of s on top of the leeks and garnish with 1/2 sprig of thyme. Sprinkle the plate with the minced chives.


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