Bar en croûte de sel (salt-crusted sea bass) with shellfish reduction

I won a raffle at work. Yup. You read that right. I couldn’t believe it when my name was announced either. As fate would have it, the prize was… drum roll please… another drum roll please… a cooking session with Renaud! He promised to share a family-favorite recipe from his mother (I guess it *was* his secret… until now). Renaud, I’m sorry, I can’t help it. Who could have thought you picked a food blogger as a winner?

As we emailed each other back and forth, the session went from:

“Yay, thanks! I can’t wait to cook with you.”
to “Oh, you don’t mind if my three kids are joining us, right?”
and “By the way, they are interviewing you!”

Renaud didn’t mind indeed. So, here we go:

“Renaud, what are you teaching us today?”

“This is a special recipe from my mom who comes from Bretagne. We will cook with LOTS of salt today. You know, the fleur de sel are collected in this region, most notably in the town of  Guérande, right? Wait, let me send you a picture.”

“Thanks. Do you want to be a chef? What did you want to be when you were a kid?”

“Oh la la… I wanted to be a doctor or a diplomat. If I did not work on economic development, I would want to be an artist. A flute player! I’ve been playing for more than 30 years.”

“Cool! I play flute too [said my ten-year-old]. What dish would bring you back to your childhood?”

“Crêpes beurre sucre from Bretagne. Absolutely.”

“Hey, I have a recipe for crêpes too [this is me talking]”

“Oh yes, it has very simple ingredients but tastes wonderfully. What do you usually put?”

“True. I have flour, eggs, milk, and beer.”

[A pause]

“You put beer?”


[A longer pause]

“I’ll send you the recipe. *THE* recipe. From Bretagne!”

Meanwhile, enjoy Renaud’s recipe “Bar en croûte sel with shellfish reduction”. It was so good that we practically inhaled the whole dish.

Bar en croûte de sel (salt-crusted sea bass) with shellfish reduction

(Recipe from Renaud’s mom)

Serves 4

For the fish stock:
2 lbs fish bones (flat fish is best, but salmon head can be used)
2 liter water
1 onion (chopped)
1 fennel (sliced)
3 celery stalks (chopped)
1 carrot (peeled and chopped)
4 button mushrooms (chopped)
1 sprig of thyme

For the fish:
1 2-lb seabass or striped bass (gutted, but not scaled or trimmed)
2 kg kosher salt
3 egg whites
A small bunch of dill
1/2 lemon (thinly sliced)
Ground pepper

For the shellfish reduction:
3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
1 carrot (peeled and chopped)
3 celery stalks (chopped)
200 g button mushrooms (peeled and chopped)
2 medium tomatoes (chopped)
4 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
300 g raw shrimps (shell on) or small crabs
1 tbs cognac
2 tbs white wine
1.2 liter of fish stock (above)
1 tbs butter (at room temperature) + 1 tbs flour
1-2 tbs creme fraiche or sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh tarragon (chopped)

White rice (cooked)

To make the fish stock:

  1. In a large stockpot, put all ingredients together and fill with 2 liter of cold water.
  2. When the stock starts to boil, lower the heat to simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Strain the stock and discard the solids.

To make the fish:

  1. Preheat oven to 420F.
  2. In a large bowl, use your hands to mix salt + egg whites to the consistence of wet sand on the beach.
    • Note: Add another egg white if necessary.
  3. Stuff the dill and lemon slices into the cavity of the sea bass.
  4. On a baking tray, made a bed of salt mixture.
  5. Layer the fish on top.
  6. Add the remaining salt mixture and use your hand to pat until the salt completely covers the fish.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and let it rest for another 30 minutes.

To make the shellfish reduction:

  1. In a stockpot, heat 3 tbs olive oil + 2 tbs butter over high heat until butter is melted.
  2. Add chopped garlic + onion and fry briefly until fragrant.
  3. Add chopped celery + carrot + a pinch of salt.
  4. Add mushroom.
  5. Fry until the onions are soft and golden brown. Set aside.
  6. In the same stockpot, heat 4 tbs olive oil + 2 tbs butter over high heat.
  7. Add shrimps and stir fry quickly.
  8. When the shrimps turn pink but not yet cooked, pour 1 tbs cognac and torch it to make a flame.
    • Note: please make sure to stop the fan hood (if using) before making a flame.
  9. Add tomatoes + white wine + the stir fried vegetable above.
  10. Add 1.2 liter of fish stock.
  11. Once the stock boils, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  12. Strain the stock and discard the solids.
  13. Continue to simmer the shellfish stock until reduced to 1/4.
  14. In a small bowl, mix butter + flour.
  15. Add a few tablespoons of the shellfish stock to the butter-flour mixture to combine.
  16. Pour the butter-flour mixture into the stock to thicken it.
  17. Add 1-2 tbs creme fraiche or sour cream to taste.
  18. Add juice of 1/2 lemon + salt + pepper to taste.
  19. Finally sprinkle chopped tarragon before serving.

To serve:

  1. Use a serrated knife to cut around the salt crust. Remove its top and the fish’s skin.
  2. Gently separate the fish’s fillet and discard the bones.
  3. On a plate, put cooked white rice + fish fillets + some dill for decoration.
  4. Pour the shellfish sauce on top of the rice and fish fillets.
  5. Serve immediately.