Known in French as Poisson à la Bordelaise, this fish gratin is a French family staple. Fish fillets are topped with a mix of parsley, shallots cooked in white wine, lemon and breadcrumbs, and then baked in the oven until crunchy and golden – while the fish remains utterly tender underneath. This quick and simple recipe can be made with any white fish of your liking.
For the backstory, most French people recall the dish being served to them as a kid in their school cantine. The Poisson à la Bordelaise was often frozen and re-heated, and not particularly the best version of this dish. In my school cantine, I remember the fish to be pretty bland with the crust being more soggy than crunchy. So after my school years, it’s no wonder why I almost completely forgot about this dish.
It isn’t until a few months ago that I decided to give this dish another try – but this time, homemade. I bought fresh and affordable Basa fillets and prepared the crumbly topping from scratch: with homemade breadcrumbs, fresh parsley, lemon juice and shallots cooked in white wine. What a difference! This dish was nothing like what I remembered it to be. The baked fish remained tender and juicy, while the coarse topping turned crunchy and had fresh and tangy flavors from the parsley, white wine and lemon.
Poisson à la Bordelaise is still today a staple in the frozen aisles of French grocery stores, but I will always opt for the homemade version from now on. This recipe is easy and quick to assemble – about 20 minutes at most. It makes a perfect lunch or dinner any day of the week, accompanied by green beans, rice or potatoes.
- This recipe can be made with any white fish of your liking. For the photos here, I used four Basa filets (about 200g each – 800g total). Cod, tilapia, hake are great choices too. Whether you use fresh or frozen (then thawed) filets, make sure you pat them dry well with paper towel. You want to remove any excess moisture, or the fish will render liquid later and you will have a puddle on the bottom of your baking dish.
- Take the fish out of the fridge at least 1 hour before cooking so they warm up to almost room temperature.
- For the breadcrumbs, I like to make my own so they are chunky, as crisp as possible and salt-free. As a substitute you can use store-brought panko breadcrumbs I would avoid using regular breadcrumbs. In comparison to regular breadcrumbs, panko are dryer and have a flakier, coarser consistency. As a result, they will absorb less moisture or oil and give a crunchier crust – which is what we want for Bordeaux-Style Fish.
- For the white wine, I recommend you choose one that is dry and crisp, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc.
- The white wine gets completely evaporated when cooking with the shallots, so no alcohol is left – just flavor. This recipe is perfectly suited for the whole family – kids included.
- The baking dish I used for these photos (4 fillets – 800g total) is 8”x11” and it was perfectly sized.
I hope you’ll love this Bordeaux-Style Fish Gratin (Poisson à la Bordelaise) recipe as much as I do! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment.
You may also like:
4 white fish filets (about 800g total)
2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter
4 shallots or 1 large onion, peeled and diced finely
1 garlic clove, peeled and diced finely
1/3 cup (80ml) white wine
50g (panko) breadcrumbs
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (about 10-12 sprigs)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp (30ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Step 1 - Pre-heat your oven to 350F(180C) with a rack in the middle. Spread 1 tbsp (15ml) of Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the bottom of a baking dish; set aside.
Step 2 - In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the diced shallots (or onion) and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes until the shallot/onion is glistening. Add the white wine, and cook until the liquid has completely evaporated. Set aside.
Step 3 - In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, lemon juice, ½ tsp salt, pepper and cooked onion and garlic. Mix until you get a crumbly texture, slightly moist.
Step 4 - Lay the fish filets in the baking dish and sprinkle with ½ tsp salt. Cover evenly with the breadcrumb topping and slightly press down with your fingers or the back of a spoon.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the fish is done and the topping is golden. Optional: finish off with 1 to 2 minutes under the broiler for extra crunch.