2nd July 2015

John Dory with lime

By MaitreMarcel

“I do not know that cocktail” was the reaction of a contact in New York after he heard of my plan to have a “cool John Dory with lime” after a late afternoon (for me) conversation. It is a fish. There are many competing explanations on why the fish is called that way in English – either from Golden Yellow (Jaune Dorée in French, but the fish available in France is not yellow) or after the name of an adventurer in a ballad, while Jules Verne says the names come from (Janitore) for doorkeeper.

The French call its Saint Pierre and another name in English is Saint Peter, because the saint – when he was still in his mortal coil – provided Jesus which such a fish. The black mark on the sides of the fish is, according to legend, the sign of Saint Peter’s thumb.

It is a rockfish, a coastal fish, it is not very pretty (depending on your esthetical taste), and it is flat and has a large head. It is a sort of bigger version of a fish called Moonfish and also moves like a disc through the water.

It does not swim actively but floats with the streams and just catches in his big mouth whatever he stumbles into, using big feelers to avoid ramming into rocks and other obstacles.

It has a very big head and you can only use about two-thirds of the fish as meat.

The meat is white, solid and has a delicate taste. It does not flake or fall apart like some other fish meat and chefs can manipulate the fillets, wrapping or folding, without much risk of it disintegrating. It also does not have an extreme amount of bones, which makes it a pleasant dish.

You can steam the fish or fry the fillets. Here I put it “en papillote” in the oven, with some fresh lime and white pepper. You can add some olive oil and more juice to the packages – but that could alter the taste too much and because the meat is not very dry there is not a need for much cooking liquid. Oil would also add calories and the same applies to any butter sauce you may want to serve with the fish.

With the Rascasse, the Saint Pierre is a main ingredient of the Bouillabaisse fish stew of the Mediterranean coast.


  • One John Dory
  • One lime
  • White pepper
  • Aluminium foil
  • Basil leaves (optional)



  1. Preheat an oven to 200 °C.
  2. Clean the fish or let the fishmonger do it for you – cut the head, the fins, the tail and remove the innards. Wash under water and make some incisions on the sides of the fish.
  3. Slice a lime.
  4. Take two rectangular pieces of aluminium foil big enough to hold the fish, lay them crosswise over each other with the dull side inside and put the fish on top. Add the lime and some twists of pepper and close the parcels. Do not make a flat parcel but keep some space around (above) the fish so that during cooking the steam can circulate in the package. I also added some basil leaves as I had fresh ones on hand.
  5. Place in the oven on a tray and cook for 25-30 minutes. Test with a knife toward the end. If the knife feels rather warm when taken out of the fish meat, the meat is cooked. If not, continue for a few minutes.
  6. Serve, either in the parcel or take it out and remove the skin.


John Dory (Saint Pierre) with lime and basil.

John Dory (Saint Pierre) with lime and basil.