The Nomad: Scallop Seared with Parsnips and Grapes

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Parsnips and scallops are a delicious match. The coolest thing about this recipe from The Nomad Cookbook is the various ways it uses parsnips. I am especially fond of the cooking method and result of the “pressed parsnip planks” (say that ten time real fast!). I will be using that again for sure. Other than sweet nutty parsnips and shellfish we also have grapes for acidity, freshness and texture. It’s a winning combination fit for a nice quiet dinner.

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So let’s start with those pressed parsnips planks I liked so much. They are very easy to make. I just tossed 4 parsnips with salt and oil and put them side by side on a parchment lined baking sheet. I topped them with another parchment piece and another baking sheet then weighed them down with a heavy cast iron skillet. After baking them at 350 F for 1.5 hours they are tender, caramelized and flattened. Their texture after the pressed-bake is dense and soft. I cut those into even rectangular planks and before serving I seared them on the skin sides to crisp the skin and add more texture and flavor.

Parsnip Grape Puree

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The base for the scallops and vegetables is more parsnip. This one is a puree made from parsnips, sliced and sauteed in butter and cooked in milk until soft. The parsnips are strained and blended with more butter, green gapes and a splash of the cooking milk to get a smooth puree. The mixture is seasoned with white verjus (tart grape juice basically). To get a very smooth puree I passed it through a strainer and kept it warm.

I like the process that Chef Humm uses in Eleven Madison Park books and in the Nomad book to make seafood stocks. He sautees aromatics (fennel, shallots, celery,..) in oil till soft, adds white wine and allows it to reduce well. This is pretty traditional. Then he covers the seafood and aromatics with ice instead of water. I had never seen this before. The ice gently melts, extracts the flavor from the seafood and simmers for no more than 30 minutes. Done. For this recipe I am supposed to use lobster stock to make lobster nage.

Fish Stock

Not sure how to exactly define the French sauce category of nage. It really sounds cool and smooth and classy. Best way to think of it is an enriched stock made creamy with butter. In this case, I made fish stock (no lobster shells lying around) with red snapper carcasses using the Humm method. I strained it and “nage-ed” it by reducing it and emulsifying it with butter. Then I blended it with green grapes, a little lemon juice, and Xanthan gum. It got strained and resulted in a lovely rich seafood nage.

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Grapes feature yet again here. This time demi-dehydrated grapes. Green and red grapes are steeped in hot simple syrup for 5 minutes. They are then dehydrated in a 175 F oven until “wrinkled on the outside but still juicy”.  This took much longer than the 2 hours the recipe recommends, more like 4 hours.

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What the hell is parsnip bark and why do we want it here? Well, first roast yet more parsnips -not pressed this time-  until very soft. Then carefully remove the skin in big chunks. That skin is the “bark” and after frying in oil and seasoning with salt it is crispy delicious stuff perfect for adding another dimension of texture to the dish. The problem is we kept snacking on them until we had almost none to actually put on the damn plate!

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Parsnip Skin

The scallops are probably the easiest part here, brined (I posted about this a couple times), sliced and seared in oil. A couple of more components include sliced raw red and green grapes tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette and paper thin slices of raw parsnip. The parsnip sliced are soaked in ice water until they curl up and look pretty.

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To serve it, I put a thick smear of the parsnip puree on the plate and arrange a couple of parsnip planks on top. Next go the scallops, grapes, parsnip slices and the warm nage.

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Bouchon: Salmon Tartar

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A process more than a recipe.

I bought some really lovely salmon and decided to make tartar with some of it and had no intention of posting about it, but then I took some nice pictures and here we are recorded for posterity.

Salmon Fillet

Salmon Tartar

It’s based on the recipe from Thomas Kellers’ Bouchon cookbook, my reference for most things “French Bistro”. I have not tried a disappointing preparation from this book yet and I’ve tried many (quiche, Parisian gnocchi, Boeuf bourguignon, soups …)

Salmon-Chopped

The first step, chopping the fish is the most important and most time consuming of this whole simple dish. Chill the salmon, really well and then using a very sharp knife mince it by hand. This results in the best texture. Mincing it in a food processor is really not an option and will only make for a salmon paste. Not good for tartar.

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I seasoned the fish with salt and pepper. Then tossed in some minced shallots, chives and mixed in a few drizzles of olive oil. I used a ring mold to plate the salmon in the middle of the plate.

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Garnishes are strewn around made from hard-cooked eggs chopped very small, chives, red onions and capers.

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A lightly whipped scoop of creme fraiche goes on top for a luxurious texture and a little acidic freshness. Lastly I squeezed a few drops of lemon juice all over the fish. We enjoyed it with toasted home-baked bread and a glass of white wine for a light satisfying lunch.

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Salmon, Cauliflower and Citronette

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This is a rare post for me. I cooked this for dinner tonight. Typically it takes me weeks or even months before getting back to something I want to blog about. This dish was simple, delicious and looked great that I figured I’ll get off my lazy behind and post it here.

I picked up some lovely Alaskan Sockeye salmon and treated it to a salty brine for 15 minutes. This is my go-to method for treating most fish before cooking. A 10% salt solution seasons, firms up and rinses off any impurities on the fish. The fish went into Ziploc bags with olive oil ready to cook sous vide. I use these bags and the water displacement method to bag meats for sous vide a lot. It is simple and works very well removing almost all air from the bags. The fish cooks for about 20 minutes at 50 C then the skin gets seared till crispy.

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For the cauliflower, I tossed it with olive oil and pepper and heated my oven to 400 F. I put the sliced cauliflower cut side down on a baking sheet and cooked on top of the baking steel for about 25 minutes while the salmon cooked in the water. I love the dark almost-burnt sides so I did not bother turning them over giving me a nice contrast.

Cauliflower

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The citronette is a cute name for a vinaigrette made with citrus juice instead of vinegar. So, this one is nothing more than lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard and salt. I added a few minced celery leaves for flavor. To get some freshness and crunch, I very very thinly sliced celery and cauliflower stem. Not bad as far as knife skills go! I tossed those in the sauce and used them to garnish the fish.

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Oven-Roasted Cod, White Bean Relish and Cabbage

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Cod is a bit tricky to cook unless one wants to batter it and deep fry it. We love the mild flavor and large tender flakes of a well cooked piece of cod. Cod has very little connective tissue and large meat “flakes”. So it tends to fall apart if you handle it too much trying to flip it a couple of times in a pan. I tried cooking it sous vide a couple of times and was not crazy about the result either. This method of starting it in a pan and finishing it in the oven following a short salt cure is the ideal way to get it done.

I sprinkled the fillets with a good layer of kosher salt and let them cure in the fridge for 20 minutes. This seasons and firms the fish up. I rinsed them in cold water, patted them dry and let them sit in the fridge while I prepared the rest of the dish.

Cod

The fish is the star of this plate but I wanted something sharp to offset it and a couple of different textures. I went with vaguely Spanish flavors here. I roasted red peppers, peeled them and sliced them into thin ribbons. I sauteed some diced Pancetta with onions and garlic. Then I tossed in the peppers and cooked white beans. I finished the ragout with sherry vinegar, maple vinegar, olive oil and parsley.

The cabbage was even simpler. Just thinly sliced savoy cabbage sauteed gently in butter with a little salt and pepper. Since this was part of a four-course dinner I wanted the cod’s accompaniments to function as tasty and substantial garnishes and not as filling “sides” as they might’ve been if this was a one plate dinner.

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To cook the fish I heated the oven to 375 F and got a pan going on the stove top. I seared the fish in clarified butter in the pan over medium heat for about 8 minutes. I turned it over and transferred it to the oven to finish cooking for another 8-10 minutes. The fish fillets got a very small squeeze of lemon, some thyme leaves on top and went in the center of the plate with the beans and cabbage around it.

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Citrus-Cured Salmon, Parsley-Chive Coulis

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Seafood gently poached in fat is a great way to cook. Lobster poached in butter and tuna in olive oil are both such examples. The fat slowly cooks the meat and is kept at a relatively low temperature, about 44 C to 52 C (110 to 125 F) depending how you like it cooked, leaving the seafood juicy and reducing the risk of overcooking. On top of that the fish usually looks great and has a good flavor from the fat without coming out oily or greasy. What’s not to love!

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In this recipe, adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook I started with a nice piece of fresh salmon and removed the skin. I employed my 14 year old to grate the zest of lemon, orange, lime and grapefruit. The zests get mixed with salt, sugar and pepper and sprinkled all over the fish. This is basically the first step to making gravlax or smoked salmon. In this case though the fish only marinates for about an hour while we prepare the rest of the dinner.

Citrus Cure

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Making citrus confit is pretty simple. It’s not cooked in fat like what a duck confit would be. In this case it is referring to cooking the orange segments in a sugary syrup. In the good old days fruits would be cooked in a whole lot of sugar to confit them and preserve them. Here, the syrup is relatively on the light side made with sugar, water and white wine vinegar. While the syrup cooks to a simmer I supremed a couple of oranges. This means cutting a citrus fruit into segments with none of the white pith. This has some good instructions on how to do that and of course you can find a bunch of YouTube videos about the process. I poured the hot syrup over the orange segments and let them marinate and infuse.

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Chef Keller uses a pea shoot puree to go with this dish (and a scoop of caviar, but I guess…I was fresh out of that this week). This was a regular weekday dinner for the family and I did not go shopping for pea shoots. I did like the idea of a green sauce with the citrus salmon though. So, I blanched a bunch of parsley and chives in salted boiling water and cooled them quickly in ice water. I blended until smooth with a bit of water . I really should’ve passed the green coulis through a sieve at this point like the recipe recommends but I skipped that and my end result was less smooth than it should be. Right before serving I warmed the sauce in a small pot, whisked in a few knobs of butter and seasoned it.

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I rinsed the fish fillet before cooking it and cut off the thin edges and tail end. These pieces became a nice little treat in the form of salmon tartar. I cut them up and mixed them with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, chives and pepper. I snacked on the tartar on top of toasted sourdough with a spoon of creme fraiche.

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To cook the fish, I cut it into even portions and bagged it with a good dose of olive oil. I dropped it in water set to 51C for 20 minutes. That was it. To plate I arranged a few orange confit segments and topped with a piece of salmon then drizzle (or smeared) green parsley coulis around it. It’s a wonderful way to cook salmon and a good basic preparation to keep in mind. Below is the recipe for salmon.

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Citrus Marinated Salmon Poached in Olive Oil

Adapted from Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook

  • Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
  • Zest of 1/4 grapefruit, finely grated
  • 75 gr kosher salt, about 1/4 cup Morton’s Kosher salt
  • 20 gr Sugar, about 1 Tbsp
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • A large Salmon fillet, about 1.5 – 2 lbs
  • 1/3 Cup olive oil, or enough to cover fillet if not using sous vide equipment

Mix the citrus zests, salt, sugar and pepper together. Sprinkle all over the salmon and cover with plastic wrap. Let the fish marinate in the fridge for at least one hour but no more than 3.

When ready to cook, heat a water container to anywhere from 45 to 52 C using an immersion circulator (I use the Anova precision cooker) depending how you like the fish. The higher end will give a fish that is obviously cooked but very juice and tender. On the lower spectrum the fish is semi-cooked and closer to raw. Both are great but different. Divide the fish into portions and seal in freezer Ziploc bags with the olive oil. I used two bags for this amount of fish with 2 or 3 portions in each. Drop the bags in the water and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the fish, pat dry gently and serve.

Cooking in olive oil option: This will need a good bit more oil but if you do not want to use sous vide this is the traditional option. Warm olive oil in a pot to the desired temperature (again, no more than 52 C or so). You need enough oil to cover the fish. Gently slide the fish in the oil and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove the fish, pat dry gently and serve.

Halibut en Paupiette, Leek Royale, Red Wine Sauce

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One thing off the top here: Leek royale is awesome velvety delicious stuff. Ok, now that I’m done with that, the rest of this dish is very good too even if my execution is not as ideal or refined as I would’ve liked.

Chef Daniel Bouloud made this, a version of it actually, popular when when he was working at Le Cirque. At his restaurant, Daniel, he kept the popular dish in spirit but updated it a lot. In this version here I am doing a hybrid of sorts. The classic original is a fish, usually sea bass, wrapped in thin slices of potato and pan fried in butter. It is then served on top of sauteed leeks with a rich red wine sauce.

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In his book, Daniel: My French Cuisine, we get the updated version of the classic. It’s a steamed bass fillet with potato lyonnaise “rolls”, a rich leek custard (the aforementioned royale) and the classic red wine sauce, a Bordelaise. I started working on the recipe with the leek custard because that takes the most amount of work and needs to set in the fridge. I simmered the green part of the leeks along with Italian parsley until tender. I then cooked the drained greens in some cream and blended the whole thing, strained it through a fine sieve, seasoned it and blended in eggs and more cream.

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To cook it, I lined a small loaf pan with plastic wrap for easy removal later. I wrapped it with aluminum foil and cooked in a bain marie in the oven until set. This took a bit longer than the recipe recommends. I let the royale cool and popped it in the fridge until dinner time. Before plating, I gently unmolded the royale and cut it into neat 1 inch cubes and let them temper and come to room temperature. I tasted a few on their own. It’s rich with a lovely flavor of leek and has such a great smooth and comforting texture. For a few days after serving it with this dish we enjoyed the leek custard leftovers as a random side dish with dinner. It also goes great spread on crispy bread for a snack.

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Next I prepared the red wine sauce by reducing stock, plenty of red wine and some port along with shallots and thyme. Then I whisked in a crap load of butter until we had a glossy rich sauce. Chef Bouloud uses a vegetable sheeter to make long perfect sheets of potato which he uses to make strips to wrap the fish. I don’t have one of those contraptions so I bought the longest potatoes I could get my hand on and used the mandolin to make long paper thin sheets. This worked pretty well. I seasoned the halibut fillets with salt and pepper and some thyme. Then I brushed the potato sheets with clarified butter and used them to wrap the fish.

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The mistake I made here is to let the wrapped fish sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. The salt drew some moisture out of the fish in the meantime. So, it was a bit of a pain to get the fish to brown in clarified butter when I was cooking it for dinner. With some careful gentle heat I got the potato/fish packets cooked well, but next time I will wrap and fry the fish right away.

To plate, I poured some sauce on the plate and topped it with the fish. I put a couple of royale cubes on the side. I dressed a small salad made primarily of parsley leaves with lemon and olive oil. The salad went between the leek custard cubes. The flavors were awesome and the whole thing worked. With a bit of care with cooking the fish the dish could be quiet spectacular.

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Cod, Green Bouillabaisse and Aïoli

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It’s very much a stretch calling this mixture of spring vegetables a Bouillabaisse, but it gives you an idea at least about the flavor profile. In Happy in the Kitchen chef Michel Richard serves this “Bouillabaisse” with nothing more than the Aïoli and croutons (like a real Bouillabaisse). I’ve always loved the idea of this vegetable stew that is emblematic of spring but also wanted to make it more substantial. So, why not add a seafood element? While we are at it, a few pieces of ultra crispy roast potatoes a la Heston Blumenthal (really the best roast potatoes ever!) stand in for the crouton and are a natural with the garlicky aïoli.

Green Bouillabaisse

It’s really a more labor heavy project to make a good vegetable dish than what people might assume. There is a lot of washing, trimming, peeling, drying, chopping, slicing and dicing…far more than searing a piece of meat and serving it with rice. Making vegetarian food -good vegetarian food- with nuance, balance and variety is an admirable task. Here I trimmed and quartered large globe artichokes first and let them sit in a mixture of water and lemon juice.

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Other vegetables that went in here in a specific order so that they will cook perfectly include fennel, leeks, onions, tomatoes (pureed), minced garlic, zucchini, squash and leafy greens. The mixture, just like a traditional Bouillabaisse, is flavored with white wine, saffron and an anise flavored spirit; Pernod in this case.

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I wanted a mild light fish to go with the vegetable Bouillabaisse. Fresh halibut or turbot would have been great, but no luck this time. What they had at the fish counter are some good thick cod fillets. I bagged the fish with olive oil and cooked them sous vide. Cod has very little connective tissue, even for a white fish, that’s why it is great in fish and chips. Cooked sous vide though, we really have to be very careful to move the fish gently so as not to break apart.

Bouillabaisse is often served with a garlicky olive oil emulsion called rouille. This sauce does not contain eggs and relies on the gradual addition of oil to garlic and bread crumbs to maintain some stability. For this dish though, I went with a garlic aïoli. Homemade mayonnaise is ridiculously easy to make with a hand (stick) blender and a tall narrow container. It’s a trick I first saw Spanish chef Jose Andres do by dumping all the ingredients in the container, the oil floats to the top and the egg sinks. The blender goes all the way to the bottom and as it is whirring away you slowly start lifting it up as the mixture emulsifies into a perfect mayonnaise. Here is a video showing this method (go to about minute 3:00). This time I added extra lemon juice and a few cloves of minced garlic. It is awesome with the fish, the vegetable stew and the crispy potatoes.

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