salmon with dill and buerre blanc

I always feel inordinately healthy when I eat salmon. It's one of those rare foods with so many touted benefits that you'll feel like a superhero the moment it touches your tongue. Added to that is the fact that salmon is, in fact, delicious. It's rich and buttery, with a substantial flavor that nothing else in the world truly mimics (arctic char, I'm looking at you). 

What I like about this dish is that it's one of those 25 minute weekday wonders. With very little prep work, simply mincing some shallots and dill, you can have it together and everything in the dishwasher in well under an hour. The key to making this dish successful is having the patience to allow your pan to get truly hot (no one wants a limp or torn skin) and to whisk that sauce thoroughly to ensure it's pulled together. These are easily enough done provided you know to look out for them.  But when you do, you'll have this rich, crispy skin with soft layers inside, drizzled by a sauce equal parts acidic and bright from lemon and wine and thick with silky butter, all tied together and elevated with the herbal note of the dill. 

1 salmon filet
2 tbsp chopped dill
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 oz champagne wine vinegar or white wine
2 oz butter
2 tbsp minced shallot
1 tsp herbes de provence
salt & pepper to taste
canola oil

Preheat oven to 350. Heat a 10-inch saute pan over high heat. Add oil, get oil to smoking hot (about 2-3 minutes). Sprinkle fish with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence. Add fish skin-side down, laying the fish away from you so the oil doesn't splash back. Allow to cook until the skin is crispy and releases naturally from the pan (about 2-3 minutes). Flip fish. Cook on meat side until a crust develops and it releases naturally from the pan. Put entire pan in oven. Cook 5-6 minutes or until thermometer registers 125 degrees Fahrenheit in the center of the filet. 

In a small saute pan, add vinegar or wine and shallots and cook over high heat until mostly evaporated (au sec). Remove from heat and add butter, whisking quickly to form an emulsion. Add dill and lemon, whisk in to stabilize emulsion. 

Remove fish from oven and place on plate, drizzle with beurre blanc and top with dill. Serve.

dill + horseradish lobster sliders on brioche

there's a sweetness to graduation, of which we had a very successful one yesterday. preparing for your senior buffet is a little like being on top chef - you construct a menu of a number of dishes, appetizers, and desserts. you conceptualize the plating. then you get to work - we had four hours of prep time the night before and eight hours on the day of. i was responsible for gazpacho with cilantro oil (my signature dish if you've crept around a little) and dill and horseradish lobster rolls on brioche buns. i slipped on a clean chef's jacket and bowed my head for a toque. you know, that really big chef hat. i'm sure i blushed from my ears to my toes.

but, we're back! so what better recipe to follow up culinary school graduation with than the one i made for it? you already have the gazpacho, so let's make some lobster rolls!

a key aspect of this recipe is the sweetness of the brioche bun. brioche is a dough made from a levain and a pate. the levain is a wet starter of flour, yeast, and lukewarm milk while the pate is the remaining mixture. here, like in all bread making, we brush the tops of the buns with egg wash to help them reach a rich, golden brown. i find that the brioche buns are so delicate that using the tips of your fingers to brush the wash on works best. 

now, you'll also need to dispatch a lobster. we'll use the most humane method, even if it doesn't sound very kind. take the lobster. position him facing your dominant hand. place the tip of your knife over his head, just past and between the eyes. push the knife down in one swift stroke, the faster and more sure you are, the less the lobster will suffer. it will continue to twitch and move, be aware that this is normal and the lobster is most certainly dead and cannot feel a thing. 

brioche

levain

12 oz all purpose flour
1 cup lukewarm milk
.5 oz active dry yeast

bloom the yeast in the milk and mix. add flour. place in a warm spot, covered, for 35-40 minutes.

pate

20 oz all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp butter, room temperature and chunked

in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine sugar, salt, and butter and cream on high speed until light and fluffy. add flour and begin adding egg and egg yolks one at a time until fully incorporated. switch from the paddle to the dough hook and beat at low to medium speed for 10-15 minutes, until a smooth, shiny dough is formed. turn out into a greased bowl and allow to rise, covered, for 1 hour. then, place into the refrigerator for 1 hour. retrieve and punch down, form into a rectangle or ball and return to the refrigerator to rest for at least one hour and up to 24. 

retrieve dough. on a lightly floured work surface, tear off roughly 1 oz chunks and roll into a ball, either on the table or between your hands, much like you're using play-doh. place onto a parchment-lined tray and brush with egg wash. set aside and allow to proof for 20 minutes.

bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden brown. let cool. slice and hollow out the insides.
 

lobster

1 lobster, (either alive or you can ask the fishmonger to dispatch it for you.) 
1 large shallot, minced
1 tbsp dill, minced
1 stalk celery, small diced
1/4 cup mayo
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon
salt to taste
 

first, dispatch the lobster. hold it firmly in your non-dominant hand facing toward your dominant hand. place the knife squarely between the eyes and drive the point down swiftly and surely. grip the body and tail and twist in opposite directions. save the tail. repeat with both claws. bring a pot of salted water to a boil. drop the claws for 6 minutes and the tail for 8. plunge both into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

now take a pair of kitchen shears and cut down the top and bottom sides of the tail to remove the flesh. for the claws, twist the actual claw off and remove the pincer. cut down the two sides to pop the shell and retrieve meat. dice the meat.

in a small bowl, combine mayo, horseradish, mustard, dill, white wine vinegar, and lemon juice. toss with all ingredients. scoop into hollowed-out brioche buns and serve!

whole grilled branzino

 

branzino is an incredibly light white fish commonly cooked whole. here we've taken inspiration from gabrielle hamilton again - from her grilled branzino done with toasted fennel oil. when I ate at prune, I devoured the sight of the prepared branzino - the gutted cavity stuffed full with lemons and fennel fronds. they grill in the open kitchen, the scent of those perfect fish wafting out into the main dining area.

buying fresh fish can be an overwhelming experience. what should you look for? is it too fishy? is this slime or normal? there are eight simple checks you'll go for when purchasing seafood. first, is it slimy to the touch? not just wet or that healthy slipperiness - does your hand actually come away with slime? if so, toss it. second, are the eyes bright and glassy? third, do you see bright red to pink gills (pink to red is good, dark, dark red to gray? not so much)? fourth, does it smell fishy like the sea or fishy like you'll never get it back out of your clothes, holy wow that's a dead fish? (fishy like the sea is good) fifth, how does that body cavity look? is it darkened, torn up, or have much additional damage to it? sixth, does it feel firm, like when you press your arm -does the meat bounce back (if so, good!)? seventh, is it cold? has it been kept under forty degrees Fahrenheit (never buy warm fish)? eighth, are the scales flaking off? (bad)


I did this for a recent dinner party. a summer celebration. hello sunshine, my old friend. strings of lights strewn up across the glass table and through boughs of pine and oaks. the table was laden heavy with pinot grigio and sauternes wine. doing a dinner party for six or more proves to me how far we’ve come, how much we’ve learned, since starting culinary school last october. mainly, I’ve learnt time management. choreographing a large meal is similar to a dance - plan your movements and your steps.

2 branzino, cleaned and gutted. left whole.
1/4 cup fennel seeds, toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
4 fennel fronds
4 slices lemon
2 sprigs rosemary

inspect the fish when you buy it for freshness. you're going to use the eight quality checks listed above.

to toast the fennel seeds, heat on a sheet pan (cookie sheet) in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes 

turn on your grill to high. meanwhile, heat the olive oil, canola, and toasted fennel seeds in a small saucepan over high for 1-2 minutes or until hot. let sit.

stuff the cavity with fronds, lemon, and rosemary. brush outside liberally with fennel oil. lay on grill and cook 4 minutes per side.