Main course

Escalope de saumon Marco Pierre White

This dish of salmon in a cream and butter sauce is an absolute classic. The recipe originates in the kitchen of Pierre and Michel Troisgros, where it defined the vanguard of ‘nouvelle cuisine‘, and was known as ‘escalope de salmon à l’oseille.’

To understand how significant this plate of fish was, you need to know a little about how salmon was cooked for the high tables of early 20th Century Paris.

Pierre Troisgros and his brother Michel, salmon had pretty much always been cooked in the manner of Escoffier, where thick fillets were fried or baked, and sauces were spooned over the top. In 1962, the Troisgros brothers were armed with a new-fangled Tefal non-stick frying pan were pondering how to use it — not so much to improve an existing dish, but to make something that was previously impossible. They thinly sliced through a fillet of salmon to produce an ‘escalope.’ This was then cooked very rapidly in a hot, dry Tefal pan and served on top of a very light sauce of sorrel and Sancerre wine. Putting the fish on top of the sauce was a bold move as it meant that the cooking of the fish had to be perfectly on point, and this was only achievable with the new Teflon® pans.

When Marco Pierre White came to open his famous Harveys restaurant in London’s Wandsworth, he put a version of the Troisgros recipe on the menu. The essentials are all there, but the Sancerre was swapped for vermouth, and the sorrel for basil. The result is a classic dish of Michelin-starred dining, that can be made for lunch in a domestic kitchen without any fuss or awkward herbs.

Please note, however, that the recipe given here (and the one in Marco’s White Heat is probably not the method done at Harveys — nor is it the method used by les frères Troisgros. In the restaurant version, the skinned salmon is split through the middle into two escalopes. It is then flattened between two sheets of greaseproof paper using something akin to a heavy plasterer’s trowel. Cooking is done extremely gently and largely off the heat. The result is a just-done piece of fish with no browning whatsoever. I will have a go at that method next time.

Harveys is, sadly, long since closed. However, you can enjoy lunch at the triple-starred La Maison Troigros at 728 Rte de Villerest, 42155 Ouches, France. Call +33 4 77 71 66 97 for a table. Good luck.

Escalope de saumon Marco Pierre White

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By Marco Pierre White (after Pierre Troisgros) Serves: 4
Cooking Time: 20 mins


  • For the salmon:
  • 4 salmon fillets cut from the middle of the fish, brought fully to room temperature (see notes below and article above regarding the skin)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A little lemon juice
  • For the sauce
  • 25g butter
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 15 or so large basil leaves, julienned (see notes)
  • 40ml Noilly Prat vermouth
  • 60ml double cream
  • 120ml fish stock
  • 15g butter, cubed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A little lemon juice


To make the sauce:


Melt the first 25g of butter in a saucepan and add the shallots. Cook them gently until translucent. Add the basil. Increase the heat a bit and add the vermouth to deglaze. Reduce until all the liquid is almost gone.


Add the stock and reduce by half. Add the cream, increase the heat until almost boiling. Reduce heat.


Add the butter, a bit at a time until combined. Season and add lemon juice as liked. Keep the sauce warm.

To cook the fish:


Heat a dry non-stick pan on a high heat. Cook the salmon for about 2 mins each side until done. Note that if the salmon is not done by that time (e.g. if your fillets are a side thick), turn it skin side down, put a lid on the pan and steam gently over a low heat until cooked through.


For the fish, the White recipe does not indicate if the fillet is skinned or not. Videos of the Troisgros recipe indicate the the skin is off as part of the escalope process (thin), and this is a far more elegant way to do the dish. However, this will make the fish very difficult to cook without breaking apart. If you can manage it, skin it, if not, leave it on to ensure integrity off the fillet, but understand that your cooking time is longer – do not over-colour the presentation side. The Troisgros original uses sorrel rather than basil.

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