It all started with an idea. “Let’s cook dinner together!” And I had the pleasure of witnessing genius at work–I got to see how a kick-ass chef created and perfected a recipe in a single day. Here’s how it went down. 1. It started with an idea. Matt (the main chef) knew he wanted to cook something fish or seafood related, something light. I suggested lamb and beef brisket several times before realizing that chefs, at least most chefs, are stubborn mofos, and we settled on sea bass.
He made sure to get filets with the skin on so he could sear the fish and get a nice crispy crust on one side.
2. Previous skills came into play. Matt was originally trained by a classical French chef at a U.S. country club in the 90s, then went on to learn other styles of cooking in culinary school a few years later. So when he announced that he want to do a reduction sauce (which is from Nouvelle cuisine, which is essentially a healthier, more simplified version of French cooking) made of chicken stock and thai curry flavors, I wasn’t surprise. I was freaking stoked.
(Okay, actually, I was a little bitchy because Matt wouldn’t let me rock out a stock from scratch. He didn’t want to wait that long, but for reals? It takes an hour or two at most. And SO worth it. But I digress.) I don’t know exactly what he put in here, but I remember ginger, garlic, chile peppers and lemon grass and coconut milk being in the mix (trying to remember if he used an actual curry paste or not). He simmered the chicken stock with all of these flavors for nearly an hour, until it reduced into a really flavorful liquid. Then he strained the bits out so it looks silky smooth. I’ve never really worked with reduction sauces, so the whole process was fascinating to me.
3. Stayed open to inspiration. Matt was already rocking the Asian flavors, so he decided to roll with it and add edamame to the mix, which he later roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper until brown and crispy. Matt likes being inspired by seasonal produce, and these portabello mushrooms called to him at the grocery store, and supported his Asian theme. He gave them a quick saute with olive oil, salt and pepper.
He also stumbled upon some beautiful arctic char roe, and to be honest, Matt has rich tastes. When he sees something pretty, he has to have it. No matter the price tag, or if he is splitting the bill with others. Lucky for us he makes some kick-ass food with it. I came across some cucumbers, which felt quite Asian-y to me, and I asked Matt if a quick Asian pickle could be involved. Matt took my inspiration and ran with it, creating a slightly sweet and spicy quick Asian pickle with apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, hot pepper, bay leaves and more. The total time the cucumbers sat in the brine was around 2 hours, and the cucumber slices were subtly spiced.
4. Rolled with the punches. That is the sign of every good chef, right? The chef that can work with anything, one who rolls with the punches. Take Matt, for instance. He was stuck with an annoying Indian bitch who insisteed on using a seasonal vegetable, in this case, brussel sprouts. I love a nice roasted buttered brussels sprout, and instead of telling me no, Matt worked with my contribution.
And this is what we got at the end: Matt’s pan-seared sea bass with Thai coconut curry sauce, roasted buttered brussels sprouts and edamame, sauted portabello mushrooms, quick Asian pickles and arctic char roe.
The sweet and spicy sauce made this light fish super-flavorful, and the roasted veggies added another interesting taste element. The pickles gave the dish a needed acid element, which helped to brighten the flavors, and the rich roe provided a nice, slightly salty contrast on top. This was definitely one kick-ass dish. ~LTG!