It was my father in law's birthday this weekend. We invited him over to our place and offered to cook. He requested fish. I was happy to oblige.
I wanted to spend some time with my cookbooks and go back to recipes from the masters for this dinner. I'm a little bit out of practice both palate and technique wise. I thought it would be a good opportunity to refresh myself and to try to learn some new techniques along the way.
I cooked recipes from both Thomas Keller's French Laundry cookbook and Eric Ripert's Le Bernadin cookbook. These are probably my all time favorite go-tos. I love Keller, his philosophy, and his recipes as you well know if you read my blog. When it comes to seafood, Ripert's recipes are leaps and bounds above anything else I've found. Unlike Keller, Ripert's recipes are generally very simple. They sometimes require a little time for developing sauces and broths, but otherwise they are quite straightforward.
With recipes from both chefs, and whenever I'm seriously cooking these days, I tend to spend a lot of time on knife work. While not utterly essential to the taste of the dish, elegant vegetable cuts add immensely to presentation and also to the discipline and learning of the cook... or maybe I'm just a little obsessive compulsive. Anyhow, this adds a little time to any dish. Probably not worth it to most people, but very worth it to me. Getting perfect cube shaped 1/8th inch dice out of a say a pit-in black olive can take some practice and patience. For me, the knife work is one of the most zen parts of cooking.
I found some phenomenal heirloom tomatoes at Whole Foods and ended up buying 8 pounds of them. I used them to make various components including the nage in which the fish was poached and served, tomato confit, tomato water, and tomato dust.
Anyhow, I prepared the following recipes:
Shrimp with Avocado Salsa with Basil Tomato Water Shooter. (Keller)
Shrimp, poached in court bouillon. Avocado. Cucumber. Onion. Tomato. Lemon Tomato water with basil and cucumber.
Salad of Haricots Verts, Tomato Tartare, and Chive Oil. (Keller)
Haricots verts in red wine vinegar cream sauce. Tomato confit with shallots and chives. Frisee. Chive oil. Tomato powder.
Poached Halibut on Marinated Vegetables (Ripert)
Halibut poached in nage. Nage broth with zucchini, carrot, cucumber, tomato. caper, cornichon, shallot. and black olive. Tarragon. Parsley. Chives. Chervil. Lemon.
As is almost a given when cooking recipes from either of these chefs, the flavors and textures were phenomenal. I executed everything nicely and was quite pleased with the results. I did a few of my own minor tweaks to the recipes (the tomato water shooters for instance) that allowed me be a little creative within the boundaries of the recipe.
For dessert, we brought home a ridiculously decadent carrot cake from Truluck's. This completely offset whatever healthiness the dishes I prepared might have had.
In addition, I made some of Thomas Keller's vanilla ice cream from the Ad-Hoc at Home cookbook which is absurdly good, no doubt thanks to the whopping 10 egg yolks that go into it. It is basically crème brûlée ice cream for all practical purposes. Awesome.
Anyhow, the father in law seemed pleased and I was too.