Posted by: njbrown | February 6, 2012

Julia’s Fish Terrine, Straight Wharf Restaurant – Terrine de Sole aux Trois Mousses

Terrine de Sole aux Trois Mousses

Julia's Fish Terrine Straight Wharf Restaurant - Terrine de Sole aux Trois Mousses

For some time, people have been visiting my blog looking for this recipe, which I mentioned in my post on Turban of Sole. I have read this recipe in Julia Child & More Company since the late 70s, but never made it. Julia writes about the lengthy process of trying to develop a good fish mousse recipe, and how she and her staff (including Sarah Moulton) finally decided to use Chef Marion’s fish terrine recipe from Nantucket’s Straight Wharf Restaurant. George and I honeymooned almost 40 years ago in Nantucket and then in Quebec City – places that were special to me but George had never visited – and I love anything to do with Nantucket.

Julia writes on page 161 of Julia Child & More Company: “A fish terrine – or pâté  – is almost invariably a purée of raw fish that is bound together with eggs, and made light and, in fact, mousselike, with cream. Sometimes, the fish mousse stands alone, having enough bodily gelatin and strength to need no other base. This always sounds stylish, but I like a panade (thick cream sauce or bread crumbs) in my mousses and I particularly like the use of fresh bread crumbs here; they absorb the fish juices that would otherwise exude in sometimes distressing quantity.”

Note:  Be smarter than I was – use a glass loaf pan so that you can see how your layers are working out. Do not use pre-made bread crumbs as I did as a short cut; they contain the crust and will make the mousse beige. Use a very big bunch of watercress, because it cooks down to a fraction of the pre-cooked amount. My watercress layer was less than half of what it should have been.

Fish Terrine, Straight Wharf Restaurant

Mousse of sole and scallops layered with watercress and salmon

“Manufacturing Note – Molded Mousse:

The recipe here is for a fish mousse served directly from its terrine or baking dish, since that is great for a picnic, or a covered dish party. If you want to serve it unmolded, however, just line the inside of the terrine with buttered wax paper, and the mousse will come out easily after it has baked.”

For a 5-cup (1¼ L.) terrine or bread pan, serving 8 to 10 people

The Garnish – Watercress and Salmon:

  • 1 large bunch fresh watercress
  • 4 or 5 scallions
  • 2½ to 3 Tb butter
  • ¼ pound (115 g) excellent lox or lightly smoked salmon

For the Fish Mousse:

  • 1½ pounds (675 g) of the finest, freshest-smelling fillets of sole or flounder (or other lean white fish such as conger eel, tilefish, petrale sole, monkfish, halibut)
  • ½ pound (225 g) of the freshest-smelling scallops, washing rapidly and drained
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tb (or a bit less) salt
  • 2 cups (½ L) lightly pressed down crumbs from crustless nonsweet French-or Italian-style white bread
  • 2 to 3 cups (½ to ¾ L) heavy cream
  • 4 Tb lemon juice
  • Freshly grated white pepper
  • A speck or so of nutmeg


  • A food processor;
  • A 5 to 6 cup (1¼ L to 1½ L) terrine or loaf pan;
  • Several rubber spatulas and soup spoons (useful);
  • 2 or 3 medium mixing bowls;
  • An instant meat thermometer (useful).


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C and place a roasting pan half full of hot water in it, for baking the terrine.
  2. Cut a piece of wax paper a little larger all around than the terrine, and a piece of aluminium foil slightly larger than that. Butter one side of the wax paper.
  3. Pull the tender leaves and top stems off the watercress (you may save the rest for watercress soup) and chop them into a very fine mince with the white and tender green of the scallions;
  4. Sauté slowly in 2 tablespoons butter for a minute or so, until limp. Set aside in a bowl.
  5. Look over the salmon to be sure there are no bones or other debris.

The fish mousse

  1. Cut the fillets into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces and purée with the scallops, using the steel blade.
  2. Remove cover and add the eggs, salt, bread crumbs, 2 cups (1/2 L) cream, the lemon juice, 10 grinds of pepper and nutmeg.
  3. Purée for 30 seconds or so.
  4. Remove the cover; scrape and stir contents about, and purée longer if not smooth. When you spoon a little up, mousse should hold its shape softly – if you think it could take more cream, start the machine again, and add more in a thick stream, checking that you have not softened the purée too much.
  5. Remove cover and taste carefully for seasoning – it should seem a little oversalted and overseasoned if you are to serve it cold, since the seasonings will become less strong once a mousse is cooked and cooled.

Assembling the terrine

  1. The mousse is arranged in layers in the terrine: plain mousse, green, plain mousse, salmon, ending with plain mousse. Some of the plain mousse is blended with the watercress and with the salmon; otherwise the layers would separate when the mousse is sliced.
  2. Spread a layer of plain mousse in the terrine filling it by ¼ of the plain mouse. Smooth out with the back of a soup spoon dipped in cold water.
  3. Stir a dollop of mousse into the watercress (about twice the amount of mousse to cress) and spread into terrine, smoothing it also with a wet spoon.
  4. Spread on another layer of plain mousse, then remove all but a large dollop of mousse from the processor bowl.
  5. Place salmon in processor with the remaining mousse and purée for several seconds until smooth; spread the salmon in the terrine, and top with a final layer of plain mousse, filling the terrine to the top.
  6. Cover with wax paper, buttered side down, then foil – paper and foil should not come too far down sides of mold or water from baking pan may seep into mousse.
  7. Assembled terrine should be baked promptly, since raw fish deteriorates rapidly even under refrigeration.


  1. 1¼ to 1½ hours
  2. As soon as possible set the terrine in the preheated oven in the pan of hot water.
  3. When mousse starts to rise above rim of terrine, after an hour or more, it is almost done – and not until then. At that point, also, you will begin to smell the delicious aromas of cooking fish.
  4. It is done at an interior temperature reading of 160 F/71 C – top will feel springy not squashy, and mousse can be gently pulled away from side of terrine.

To serve hot

  1. Leave in pan of water in turned-off oven, door ajar, until serving time.
  2. Cut slices directly from the terrine and serve with the sour cream sauce described below or with melted butter, white butter sauce (p. 235 of Julia Child & More Company) or hollandaise.

To serve cold

  1. Remove mousse from oven and let cool.
  2. When tepid, drain off accumulated juices – there will be several tablespoons that you may use in your sauce.
  3. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  4. To serve, cut slices directly from terrine, and accompany with the following sauce. (Spoon a dollop of it onto the plate, place the slice over the sauce and decorate with a sprig of parsley or watercress.)
  5. Baked terrine will keep for several days under refrigeration.

Sour Cream Sauce for Fish

Makes about 2 cups (1/2 L)

(Julia says this is a very delicate sauce that will not mask the subtle flavors of the fish terrine.)


  • The mousse cooking juices
  • 1 cup (1/4 L) sour cream
  • 2 egg yolks (optional, for color)
  • ½ cup (1dL) heavy cream
  • 1 tsp, more or less, prepared horseradish
  • ½ tsp, more or less, prepared Dijon-type mustard
  • Drops of lemon juice
  • Salt and white pepper


  1. If you have more than about 4 tablespoons of cooking juices, boil them down until they have reduced to that amount.  Then pour into a mixing bowl, beat in 2 or 3 tablespoons of sour cream, then the egg yolks if you are using them.
  2. Stir in the rest of the sour cream and the heavy cream, and season to your taste with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator – will keep for several days.


  1. The picture alone increases my rate of eagerness to try this recipe. This is so natural and fresh. I tried searching this at and I found numerous dishes that can be partnered with this one.

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