Freshwater Whitefish "Fillet Mignon" Sous Vide

Sous vide whitefish mignon with creamed spinach and bearnaise

Trompe-l’œil French for "deceive the eye” is a classic art technique that uses realistic imagery to create an optical illusion. Used in art and architecture over the centuries this technique also has a surprisingly rich history in cuisine as well.

Case in point, my Freshwater Whitefish “Fillet Mignon” on Creamed Spinach topped with Béarnaise and Onion Rings. At first glance it could be mistaken for a traditional steak house “filet mignon” dinner but get a bit closer and the filet mignon is actually pristine cubed great lakes whitefish shaped into a “fillet mignon” fish steak, thanks to a dusting of transglutaminase (a readily available protein that is used to bind proteins together) and formed in steel rings.

The newly formed whitefish fillet is then vacuum packed, steel ring and all, then cooked sous vide for optimal succulence. After a quick sear for "steak like" grill marks and flavor it’s perched on a bed of creamed spinach and topped with a no-fail sous vide version of the classic steak sauce Béarnaise, tarragon spiked hollandaise.

A dish like this, with multiple preparations can be daunting to even the most experienced cook; yet one of the hallmarks of the sous vide technique is convenience. Fish cookery can be tough as it’s easily over cooked due to its naturally fast cooking times. The creamed spinach cooked conventionally with a hint of xanthan gum to enrich its creamy base was left to cool after cooking then portioned and vacuum packed. Béarnaise seemingly utilizes culinary alchemy taking such disparate ingredients like vinegars, eggs, and butter and through the sous vide process creates a silken sauce for beef and fish alike. All three of these recipes can be made well in advance then simply reheated in your SV1 sous vide cooker and served in minutes.

This recipe is certainly a culinary form of Trompe-l’œil, but I’m not too sure which creates more of the illusion the recipe or the sous vide technique!


Freshwater whitefish fillets

• 4 large whitefish fillets

For the brine:

• 2 quarts water, ice cold

• 5 ounces kosher salt, fine grind

• 3 ounces sugar

For shaping the "fillet mignon":

• .5% transglutaminase, of the total trimmed and cubed whitefish

• Nonstick spray or similar

• 4 3/12 inch steel rings, circumference

• Olive oil

freshwater white fish cubes

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

• Béarnaise SV, see recipe

• Creamed spinach VP, see recipe

• Onion rings

Remove skin from whitefish filletsDirections:

1. Skin and trim the whitefish fillet taking care to remove any pin bones

2. In a suitable sized bowl thoroughly dissolve the salt and sugar into the water

3. Add the whitefish fillets and brine refrigerated for 20-30 minutes

4. Preheat the VacMaster SV1 to 45°C/113°F

5. Remove fish from brine and pat dry with paper towels.

6. Using a chef’s knife divide the fillet lengthwise into 3 long strips then cut across the strips to create cubes, reserve

dusting fillet cubes

7. Using a fine mesh sieve or shaker evenly dust the cubes of whitefish with the transglutaminase (the amount should be 0.5% of the total final trimmed and cubed weight of the whitefish)

8. Using a spatula gently toss the fish with the transglutaminase until evenly and thoroughly coated

9. Spray the insides of the metal rings with oil and place on a baking or cookie sheet

10. Gently but firmly pack the fish into the rings using a rubber spatula

11. Using an appropriate sized VacMaster bag carefully place the fish filled ring into the bag and using a VacMaster Chamber or suction machine vacuum seal.

bagging whitefish mignon

12. Gently place the bags in the water bath of the SV1 for 30–45 minutes.

13. Cut the fish rings from the bag and gently de-mold from the ring

14. Lightly season the top and bottom of the fillets with the salt and pepper and moisten with the olive oil.

15. In a hot grill pan or similar over high heat, sear both sides of the fillets to crisp up and achieve dark grill marks, 30-45 seconds a side.

16. Plate the whitefish medallions on a bit of the creamed spinach and sauce with the béarnaise topping with the onion rings, serve immediately