To properly celebrate the world’s best king salmon and spring, I decided to make a time honored classic from the world’s great cooking duo of all time, the Troisgros brothers. Over fifty years ago, they created escalopes of salmon in a sorrel sauce that revolutionized French cuisine and ushered in a new era of cooking. There is no better dish to honor Columbia River spring run king salmon than this classic….
‘The salty, quivering oysters and the hot sausages work sensationally, both in flavour and texture.’ – Nigel Slater
I readily admit that I grew up a bit of an oyster snob. I never liked anything served with raw oysters other than possibly lemon, and even that was generally frowned upon. I was taught by my mother to savour the purity and simplicity, and taste the ocean in all its unadorned briny splendor.
Then one day I was reading an old French text that mentioned the Bordeaux habit of eating fatty pork sausages with salty oysters, washed down with a big glass of white Bordeaux and I had to give it a go. Lisa, Beau and I drove up to the nearest oyster beds along the Hood Canal in Washington, bought a few dozen blue pool oysters from Hama Hama and a pack of store bought sausages and went to town. The combination of rich, juicy sausages with briny oysters and crisp, fruity wine was a dining revelation. I wondered why I hadn’t tried this before?
Slowing down to a Provencal Rhythm
Last August we spent a transformative week in the historic hill town of Cagnes sur Mer, widely considered the ‘Montmartre’ of the South and long favored by impressionist painters for its alluring beauty. Within five days we went from our hurried, busy lives to a more relaxed, slowed down Provencal pace, hopelessly seduced by incredibly fresh seafood, perfect vegetables, and daily rounds of pastis and rosé.
I originally wrote this post for Curious Provence, but wanted to add the recipe for rouget I roasted in a wood burning oven in Cagnes Sur Mer. To read the entire article, please visit Curious Provence – Truly one of the great Provencal blogs; written by expat Ashley….
This dish is the result of an unexpected collaboration between two chefs who never met, David Everitt-Matthias and my sous chef Keith Schneider. The flavors and scents spoke of Provence; freshly salted cod, wisps of the citrus, chickpeas and roasted red peppers. Each dish a reflection of a single moment, an edible photograph capturing a mere twinkling of time, locked forever.
I bought Chef Everitt-Matthias’s book ‘Essence’ years before, and had fawned and drooled over the lush photography and original inspiring recipes within. I couldn’t afford a trip to England to eat at his restaurant, so I started reproducing some of the dishes in my own restaurant. I cooked a verbatim copy of one of my favorites, home-salted cod with roasted tomatoes, chickpeas and anchovy dressing, for so long, I began thinking it was my own creation.
Keith Schneider was my last Sous Chef in the professional world who looked remarkably like a young Michael Douglas. He learned to make the best liquid center croquettes on the planet after spending five years sweating in Iron Chef Jose Garces’ kitchens. The first dish he ever cooked for me was a croqueta served with a saffron aioli, I loved it so much I immediately put it on the menu, eventually adding it to the cured cod set.
As a small child, I believed in two things; Santa Claus and the virtues of a simple grilled Loup de mer, or branzino as it is more commonly called in the US. Loup de mer is a Mediterranean sea bass with a delicate flesh and addictively delicious crunchy skin when grilled. Get your coals white hot, put dried fennel branches on top then the fish and let the licorice smoky flavors pleasantly permeate your fish, lending a feeling of being in Provence. There is no greater act of love than sharing a wonderful meal you cook with the people dear to you. Remember, good food can happen anywhere, this one is especially good cooked over an outdoor fire, preferably deep in woods, with loved ones and a few bottles of great wine….
A tian is an earthenware vessel of Provence used both for cooking and serving. It is also the name of the dish prepared in it and baked in an oven. – Wikipedia
A lot of friends had asked for this recipe shortly after posting a picture of it on Facebook two weeks ago. The dish was born of the moment, inspired partly by too much pastis and perhaps a memory not quite my own. We had just gotten back from France, and my garden was overgrown with weeds competing for the same limited resources that nourished my vegetables. I was doing everything to avoid tackling the tangled mess, so I started reading Roger Verge’s classic tome, ‘Cuisine of the Sun’ under the guise of research. I got to the pages where he delectably described in vivid detail a lunch with local fishermen in Cannes. They had just caught two beautiful John Dorys, and were preparing a large, festive tian for everyone to enjoy. Verge waxed on poetically about “potatoes gilded with saffron, ruddy tomatoes, pale onions, bluish thyme, green bayleaf and steel-grey fish” cooked in the local baker’s oven and served in the golden May sunlight. I was hooked.
The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden; and like a mirror, they also reflect the person looking into them. – Paulo Coelho
No other dish in the world better captures the soul and spirit of a single region than bouillabaisse. The rich, often colorful history of Marseille floats sublimely with rascasse in its spicy golden hued broth. Some believe bouillabaisse got its start from the Greek mariners who founded Marseille as Massalia in 600 BC, while others claim its origins are strictly Italian because of a few shared ingredients. The absolute truth may be that no one can precisely pinpoint the exact single moment in time, whether on that fabled riverbed encampment of fishermen and their wives or not, that bouillabaisse was born. What really would be the point of trying to figure that out anyway? It won’t make it taste any better, and it certainly won’t change the fact that bouillabaisse is the mirror reflection of the cultural melting pot Marseille has become. And the deeper I look into it, the more I see my own story reflected in it.
Today, the musts and must nots of preparing bouillabaisse are so numerous and so contradictory that one should be prepared to break rules at will. — Richard Olney
Bouillabaisse is perhaps the most bastardized dish that was ever created and as a classicist, that truly bothers me. In its strictest form, bouillabaisse is an assertive flavored, richly textured saffron seafood stew made from a specific list of Mediterranean fish that is always served in two courses. The worst case gives us a barely flavored, thin broth speckled with too many vegetables that some old seafood has been laid to rest in. Somewhere in between lies bouillabaisse’s true soul, and sadly that has been forgotten, or worse yet, lost.
General Tso’s chicken did not preexist in Hunanese cuisine,but originally the flavors of the dish were typically Hunanese — heavy, sour, hot and salty.
– Chef Peng Chang-kuei
Lisa and I just finished watching the fascinating documentary “In Search of General Tso’s Chicken”. I found it so interesting not so much for the study into the origins of one of America’s most iconic ‘Chinese’ dishes, but because it confirmed my long held belief of why American Chinese food is so damned sweet. Chinese immigrants realized we Americans have a cultural sweet tooth and add copious quantities of sugar to our food to make it loved. The issue and reasonings are far more in depth and complex, but will also shed a lot of light on the story of Chinese immigration in America. The persecution Chinese immigrants were subjected to relates a recurring storyline in America that has happened with many different ethnic group. In some ways, it could be the story of Muslims today.
The side effect of watching was I went on an all out Chinese food marathon shortly after. One dish I ‘created’ was a take on General Tso’s chicken. Perhaps Chef Peng Chang-kuei, the man credited with creating General Tso’s Chicken, would be rolling in his grave if he knew of my spin on his classic Hunanese dish. I couldn’t help it, all the ingredients were just sitting around at my house waiting to be part of something epic.
Do not neglect this food. Be careful that you do not break the rules in taking care of this salmon. Do not take more than you need. – Yakima legend of overfishing
The Mighty Columbia River
No other river captures the heart and soul of the Pacific Northwest quite like the mighty Columbia River, known to native tribes as Wimahl, Nch’i-Wàna or Swah’netk’qhu. Its story encapsulates thousands of years of human history, interweaving tales of native Americans, discovery, exploration, hydroelectric energy, logging and unparalleled fishing within its waterways. The Columbia River is the fourth longest in America, stretching an unprecedented 1,243 miles from its headwaters in the Canadian Rockies to the end where it flows turbulently into the Pacific Ocean, near Astoria, Oregon.
Though Lewis and Clark wrote extensively of it in their journals, the river did not get its name till May of 1792 when captain Robert Gray braved the infamous Columbia bar and sailed onto the river for nine days of fur trading. It was named in his honor after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva. In 1850, the Columbia River was reputed to have 16 million salmon return each year to spawn in its tributaries. The fishing was so plentiful no one ever thought it could end, but after a century of overfishing, farming, logging and building numerous hydroelectric dams the runs have been reduced to a current population of 2 million salmon.
I am sharing this recipe because of my love for the Mountain Rose apple. Every year I buy a big box and look for new ways to enjoy. I remembered a dish I would periodically make featuring apples. It originated from one of my favorite Spanish inspired cookbooks is Jose Andres’ “Tapas – A taste of Spain in America”. Chef Andres is a protege of the great Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame. This book is a great starter book for exploring simple chef driven tapas. One of my favorite dishes is the seemingly strange combination of raw salmon and apples in his Asturian style salmon recipe. Asturias is a beautiful region who’s food basket is filled with salmon from the Sella river, Cabrales bleu cheese and apples. Chef Andres describes the dish as not traditional but made with ingredients coming from the region. I decided to take his lead and alter it to fit the incredible bounty of the Pacific Northwest….
I was bitten by an octopus. – Ted Cruz
After my last article talking about Greek wine and pre-cooked octopus I thought I would follow up with a very simple method to cook your own sea beast. There is a lot of unwarranted fear surrounding octopus. Granted they are weird looking sea creatures with beaks and tentacles and a notorious reputation for being frustratingly tough. I have seen both professional and home cooks avoid preparing it like the plague. Done right it is sublimely tender and takes to a variety of preparations from simple salads to tandoori spiced appetizers to stewed in tomato sauce. Done wrong and it becomes a rubbery sea flavored chewing gum. There are many myths about the best way to tenderize octopus. They range from dropping corks in the poaching liquid, rubbing them with salt, cooking only in copper, using your clothes dryer to tumble them into tender submission, beating them on rocks to dumping enough vinegar in the cooking liquid to make you pucker for a week straight. The simplest and best method is to steam in their own juices. Try this and you will never go back to whatever method you used to subscribe to….
Brilliant light straw-yellow. Medium viscosity. Elegant, crispy, zippy, lemon juice aromas, Fine minerality mingles wonderfully with zesty citrus flavors, seamless harmony of rich fruit and acidity. Great, nervy flavor makes mouthfeel outstanding and persistent. Superb quality for pleasant price.
PDO Santorini, 92 points.
Erroneously I never gave Greek wines their proper due. I always thought of them as scarily named budget wines not worthy of my time. Maybe it was the deep seated fear of enunciating a name so hard to pronounce for a snooty sommelier and feeling embarrassed. I mean there are so many easier to verbalize alternatives not to have to go through that level of shame, why do it? Then I met this absolutely seductive wine from Domaine Sigalas and now want to scream opa! move to Greece and discover what I have stupidly been avoiding all my life….
Founded by Russ Raney in 1986, Evesham Wood is based on the idea that small is beautiful. To maintain a high level of quality, we rely on two basic principles: obtaining optimally ripe low-yield fruit from the best possible sites in the Willamette Valley, and using minimal intervention in the winemaking process. That approach is alive and well today, and is evident in every bottle we produce. – Winemaker/Owner Erin Nuccio
The Evesham Wood 2014 ‘Blanc de Puits Sec’ was a wine I had a preconceived notion about. When I looked at the label I fixated on it being a Gewurztraminer rather than the beautiful, dry Pinot Gris it is, or at least mostly is. In addition to the 85% Pinot Gris, there is about 15% Gewürztraminer and a smattering of Kerner, Rieslaner, Traminer and Pinot Blanc blended in. One deep smell of bright jasmine tea, roses and honeysuckle and I knew I was holding a winner….
Sweet, delicious Dungeness crab is always a treat. – Tom Douglas
A lot of people asked what I did with my Dungeness crabs Patricia Edwards, from Linda Brand Crab, graciously gave me at the Portland Farmer’s Market last Saturday. I was in the mood for Asian flavors and decided upon doing a take on salt and pepper crab. It quickly escalated to a sizzling rice version done as a soup….
“The crab that walks too far, falls into the pot”
Dungeness Crabs are to Thanksgiving menus in the Pacific Northwest what turkeys are to everyone else’s in America. They are the harbinger of late Fall, signalling that Thanksgiving is upon us. Crab bibs are dusted off and pounds of sweet cream butter melted in anticipation of feasts to come. National news reports of large, toxic algae blooms earlier in the year weighed heavy on the minds of locals much like a forecast of a snowless late December haunts the minds of small children facing a Santa-less Christmas. Thanksgiving is here and I started to craving sweet, briny Dungeness crab. I was troubled by recent news stories that there may not be a crab season at all. Rumors were spreading like wildfire that all crabs nationwide, even in Alaska, had been affected with abnormally high levels of a toxin called domoic acid. My heart sunk and I felt heavy and listless. Frozen crab can be found all year long but I prefer the flavor and texture of fresh Winter crabs….
It won’t matter if the sun doesn’t come out when you serve this soup,
because it is hotter than the sunshine of the Midi. ~ Roger Verge
Nothing could be more Provençal than to eat a fish soup, whether it’s in the form of bouillabaisse, bourride or this simple rustic soup. Marseille fish soup, or soupe de poissons as it’s known, is something I crave all the time, the assertive flavors redolent with the very soul of Provence transports me back to the old port of Marseilles where I first tried it decades ago.
Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.
~ Dion Boucicault
Time and tide wait for no man. Another year has shot by and I have grown even grayer. A good friend has a theory that we are passing through life on a constant paced conveyor belt with events quietly passing us like an endless stream of billboards on a cross country road trip. As a Chef, I used to measure time by the expiration dates on heavy cream cartons. Each container was good for a month and it just seemed a relevant measurement of time given my occupation. As I grew older, my father actually stopped lying about his own age and started lying about mine. Somehow thinking if I was younger he would be younger. Time never slows, it just keeps going on.
February is rapidly approaching and with that comes the annual International Alsace Festival held each year in the scenic Anderson Valley of Northern California. Winemakers from across the globe gather at the Boonville Fairgrounds to share their mostly white varietals with hard to pronounce names like Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Cremant d’Alsace with wine enthusiasts. Lisa and I make the trip to participate in the fun and festivities by conducting a food pairing demo then serving 300 guests bite sized portions of whatever I make. My demo falls during the break between the end of the technical conference and the beginning of the Grand Tasting on Saturday when people’s hunger is peaking….
Ah, I am going to piss off family members and bouillabaisse purists with this one. Bourride is bouillabaisse’s troubled cousin. Try referencing food dictionaries and you’ll see as many different versions as there are books. Some claim the only true Bourride is made solely with monkfish in a white creamy sauce, possibly flavored with crushed fish liver and others add saffron and orange. I once had a prominent French Chef taste my bourride and tell me it was good, but not a true bourride. I started making Bourride at the behest of a lawyer/book dealer friend of mine at ‘le Margaux’ way back in 1993. He told me it was one of his favorite dishes and asked if I ever made it. I don’t know why I lied, but I did. I said with utmost confidence that it was a specialty of mine and of course, I would be delighted to make it for him whenever he could get in, hoping that day would be far off enough for me to make it a few times. He made a reservation for the next night and was bringing twelve of his closest friends to indulge. Panic snuck in as I combed through various cook books trying to find at least two books corroborating the recipe. When I failed in that I figured the oldest book I had probably was the closest to a true Bourride. I settled on the version written in 1938 in the first edition of the Larousse Gastronomique. I followed the three paragraph recipe with my mother’s indifference to measurement and impressed the twelve top. Over the years I have continued to make Bourride and think of my friend every time. If you want to try my saffron and orange version come on out to Figue Mediterranean in La Quinta, California and I’ll be happy to make it for you!
- 12 Cockles
- 12 Mussels
- 4 Scallops
- 1 # St. Pierre
- ½ head Fennel
- 1 large Onion
- 1 large Carrot
- 1 large Tomatoes
- 2 T. Pernod
- loads of Garlic
- 2 c. White Wine
- 1 quart Shellfish Stock
- 1 c. Orange Juice
- 2 t. Saffron threads
- 1 c. Olive Oil
- 1 fresh Bay Leaf
- 2 T. fresh Thyme
- 1/4 c. fresh Basil
- 2 Egg Yolks
- to taste Sea Salt
- to taste White Pepper
- 4 large Potatoes
- 8 Garlic Croutons
- 1 c. Rouille
- Carefully wash the cockles and mussels to remove any sand or grit. De – beard mussels. Place all your seafood into a non-reactive pan.
- Chop fennel tops and spread over seafood.
- Add 3/4 c. olive oil, 1 T. Pernod, pinch of saffron, and lots of chopped garlic and marinate for six hours.
- Julienne fennel bulb, onion, carrots, and tomato, then sauté in olive oil.
- Add remaining Pernod and white wine.
- When it starts to simmer, add shellfish stock, more garlic, orange oil, saffron, bay leaf, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper.
- Bring to a boil.
- Add seafood; cook till they are just done.
- Put seafood into a serving terrine.
- Whisk yolks and one cup of Rouille into cooking liquid, and then pour over fish.
- Serve with boiled potatoes, garlic crouton, and Rouille.
Loup de Mer, or Mediterranean Sea Bass, has long been one of my favorite fish to eat. Here is a simple preparation I pilfered from the internationally renowned Alain Ducasse. If you ever have a chance go eat at any of his restaurants around the world. Simply amazing.
- 2 Loup de Mer, about one and half pounds each
- 1 pound Bread Crumbs
- 1/2 l Heavy Cream
- 200 g Swiss Chard, chop leaves for filling, use stems for base
- 2 Eggs
- 140 g Parmesan
- 2 Tomatoes, cooked into confit
- 6 cloves Garlic, roasted cloves
- 2 T Basil, Chiffonade
- 2 T Chervil Chiffonade
- 2 T Parsley Chiffonade
- 6 T Olive Oil
- 1/2 c. White Wine Sauce
- pinch Saffron
- Soak breadcrumbs in cream.
- Add Swiss chard, egg, parmesan, tomato confite, mashed garlic and herbs.
- Bone loup, roll filets, tie.
- Roast loup de mer, baste in olive oil.
- Sauté Swiss Chard stems in butter.
- Plate in center of plate with fish on top.
- Nap with sauce.