Le Bernardin is the flagship restaurant of the four star chef Eric Ripert. It is considered by many to be the best seafood restaurant in New York City, although Mr. Ripert personally enjoys other dishes as well. It’s hard to imagine knowing how fresh and delicious his seafood is. Yet, a recent cookbook called Avec Eric, (also the name of his popular TV food show), clearly reveals how much he loves cooking and eating whole roasted chicken as well as seafood. For some reason, cooking whole chicken can be a daunting task for many, due to being overcooked, under appreciated, or not well done enough. This recipe works on all cylinders — moist, crispy and extraordinary. It’s better than ever because of the Za’Atar dressing that brings a special flavoring to the table. And Chef Ripert employs a unique cooking approach that roasts the bird at 450 F for 20 minutes followed by a cooler temperature for another 25–30 minutes. Voila.
May through July is the ideal time when warm water fishing for shrimp begins in the Texas waters of the Gulf of Mexico and along the east coast waters of South Carolina. The west coast waters along the Veracruz coast of Mexico carry these fresh crustaceans year-round. And of course we all have become familiar with the tiger shrimp of the Pacific Rim, also available year-round, but less tasty for my money than local varieties — frozen or fresh. Less well known is the coldwater shrimp fishing in the Pacific Northwest and in Norway.
Deborah Madison has published another terrific cookbook, Vegetable Literacy. Madison’s background as a chef and celebrated author took root while growing up on a farm in upstate New York, and then in a walnut orchard in Davis, CA. This introduced her to plants and cooking with the additional influence of her father, who was a gardener and botanist.
Her cooking career took flight at the restaurant temple of West Coast cooking, Chez Panisse. Madison was also a student for 18 years at the San Francisco Zen Center, where she became the center’s chef. Subsequently, the seasoned chef was one of the founders of the restaurant Greens at Fort Mason, which is where I first encountered her food and her ardent support of the slow food movement, and the Seed Savers Exchange.
There are many different methods to cooking such as roasting, grilling, sautéing, boiling, frying, braising, poaching, steaming and even microwaving, which I must admit is not a technique I recommend. Today our focus is poaching.
Many people just get Asian takeout when it comes to poaching or steaming. Whether Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Thai, poaching is a common Pacific Rim cooking technique. In contrast, most Western-style cuisine is more frequently fried, grilled, roasted or braised. French cuisine is an exception as a journey through any Julia Child recipe will attest.
Those of us who are not vegans, myself included, may suffer these days from the politically correct movement toward eating healthier, low-fat foods. Vegetarian cooking for me used to be risotto Milanese or eggplant Parmesan. These dishes were easy for me but the cheese and butter these dishes call for are tough to give up. Moving beyond these winners is still a challenge. I am too often unsure about cooking vegetarian for the evening meal. Perhaps you too find yourself somewhat at a loss trying to decide how to cook a purely vegetarian meal, without resorting to the ease of pasta and marinara, or another lentil, bean, tofu or tempeh specialty. Did I hear someone ask to pass the bowl of quinoa?
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