Thursday, January 3, 2013

Petite Filets of Salmon with Sauce Nicoise and Duchesse Potato

A classic French chicken Nicoise sauce adapted to salmon!  Nouveau cuisine!

     Back in the days when the nouveau cuisine trend was going strong, many French chefs used classic veal sauces to to create new fish entrees.  That was a good idea, because many veal sauces go well with fish and seafood.  I apprenticed with a Swiss chef who was working in France during the peak of the nouveau cuisine trend.  The Swiss chef was in charge of a bayside fine dining restaurant in Florida.  In Florida, seafood takes top billing on most fine dining menus.  A few token steak, pasta, veal and chicken recipes usually round out the rest of the menu.  On my first day working with the Swiss chef, I saw the saute cook place a traditional veal sauce on a seared redfish filet.  I said to the chef “Is that order a customer request?  That kind of bordelaise sauce is usually a sauce for veal.”  The Swiss chef responded by saying “It is now a nouveau cuisine sauce for fish!”  I must say, Swiss chefs do get straight to the point!
     A couple years later I was the saute chef and saucier at a yacht club.  The manager of the club started an international food theme night.  Once a week a menu of international cuisine was written and the menu items were never repeated from week to week.  Many times the manager would just get on his computer and write down names of foreign entrees that he browsed.  The manager would hand the chef the entree names and then the chef would hold a meeting with us cooks to try to figure out what the list of entrees were.
     Many times I was sent to the public library to try to find recipes for the oddball items that the manager selected.  Back in those days, information on the internet was not as extensive as it is today, so the public library was still the place to go for information.  One such time I needed to find a recipe for poulet nicoise.  I knew what a nicoise salad was, but I had no clue as to what poulet nicoise was.  I found the recipe in some kind of a classic French cookbook and I really liked the look of the poulet nicoise recipe from the get go.  The stock for the sauce was fortified with the caramelized marrow of zucchini.  The garnish for the poulet nicoise presentation included turned zucchini, so nothing was wasted.
     The nicoise sauce for the chicken had a rich deep flavor from the caramelize squash marrow and lemon was another key flavor in the sauce.  I cooked one order of the poulet nicoise for the chef, the maitre d‘ and I to taste.  The yacht club chef and I looked at each other and at the same time we both said “This sauce would be great on fish!”
     Recently I worked at the Le Cordon Bleu campus Technique Restaurant in Las Vegas.  After a few days on the job, the executive chef gained confidence that I knew what I was doing in a kitchen and he gave me free reign to manage the fish special du jour each day.  I remembered that poulet nicoise entree from my yacht club days.  Nearly twenty years later after making the comment that the poulet nicoise sauce would be nice for fish, I finally adapted the sauce to salmon as a special du jour.  The salmon nicoise sold like hot cakes!  Customers in the dining room who were eating my salmon nicoise special, advised new customers who were just being seated to try the salmon special.  Word of mouth advertising is never a bad thing!
     The executive chef liked the reaction that the fish special got and he liked how the duchesse potatoes looked on the plate.  Later while talking to the chef, I mentioned that the nicoise sauce on the fish was really a sauce for chicken.  The chef said “I know!”  I was kind of dumbstruck, because the chef said that he knew what poulet nicoise was and years before, no chef knew what the sauce was and I had to dig through several French cookbooks at a library to find the recipe.  Then again, the chef could have been bluffing.  This is Las Vegas and we all wear poker faces.  Ce est la vie!

     Sauce Nicoise For Fish:
     This recipe makes 2 portions of sauce!  
     As it was, there was no reason to modify this nicoise chicken sauce for fish.  Even though chicken stock is part of the recipe, the sauce takes well to fish, just like many of the nouveau cuisine veal sauces.  For a more refined presentation, sauce nicoise should be pureed and strained, before adding the nicoise olives.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped zucchini squash pulp and seed core.  (Save the firm zucchini green skin flesh for a vegetable recipe.)
     Add 1 chopped overripe plum tomato.
     Add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste.
     Saute and stir occasionally, till the zucchini pulp and tomato becomes caramelized to a medium brown color.  (Pincer is the name for this technique.  Pincer means to pinch flavor by caramelizing.)
     Add 2 cups of chicken stock.
     Add 1/2 of a fresh bay leaf.
     Add 1 sprig of fresh thyme.
     Add 1 small sprig of fresh tarragon.
     Add 1 small sprig of fresh oregano.
     Add 2 fresh basil leaves.
     Add 6 parsley stems.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Slowly simmer and reduce the fortified stock by half.
     Pour the fortified stock through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Set the fortified stock aside.
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small diced onion.
     Add 2 tablespoon of small diced leek.
     Gently saute and sweat the vegetables, till they become tender.  (Stir often.  Try not to brown the vegetables!)
     Add 4 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add the reserved fortified chicken stock.  (The stock is already flavored with herbs, so the sauce only needs to be seasoned!)
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     In a separate pan over medium/medium low heat, combine 3 to 4 pats of unsalted butter with an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring.
     Stir till a light blonde colored roux is created.
     Add just enough of the roux to the sauce, while stirring with a whisk, to thicken the sauce to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Add 1/3 cup of tomato concasse.  (Tomato concasse is peeled, seeded, diced fresh tomato.)
     Add 8 to 10 pitted nicoise olives.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin consistency.
     Add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Reheat the sauce to order!

     Duchesse Potato Recipe:
     This recipe makes a little bit extra duchesse potato! 
     There is no milk or cream in duchesse potatoes.
     Boil 1 peeled large (6-8 oz) russet potato, till it becomes soft.
     Drain off the water.
     Thoroughly mash the potato.
     Add 4 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Mix 1 egg yoke with 1 small pinch of turmeric.  (Reduced saffron water can be used in place of turmeric.)
     Add the egg yoke mixture to the potato mixture.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Place the dutchess potato mixture into a star tipped pastry bag.
     Refrigerate the potato for 10 minutes to stiffen the mixture.
     Place a pice of parchment paper on a sheet pan.
     Pipe tall swirls of duchesse potato on the parchment paper.  Each tall pomme duchesse should be the size of a serving portion or 3 to 4 ounces.
     Bake the duchesse potato in a 400 degree oven, till the duchesse potatoes become firm and the highlights on the potatoes start to caramelize.
     Keep the duchesse potatoes warm on a stove top.

     Petite Filets of Salmon with Sauce Nicoise and Duchesse Potato:
     Select a thick 8 ounce salmon filet that is skinned and deboned.
     Cut the salmon filet into 3 equal size petite filets.
     Lightly season the salmon filets with sea salt and white pepper.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Place the petite salmon filets in the hot grease, so the side of the salmon filet that was cut from the bone faces down.
     Pan sear the salmon, till golden brown highlights appear.
     Flip the salmon filets.
     Place the pan in a 350 degree oven.
     Bake till the salmon filets are cooked to at least medium well.  (A probe thermometer should read 145 degrees.)
     Note:  Only sushi quality salmon is safe to eat rare or medium rare.  Fish that are prepared for raw sushi are treated by deep freezing to kill any pathogens or parasites.
     Place the salmon filets on a plate, so the filets fan outward from the center of the plate.
     Use a spatula to place the duchesse potato on the plate.
     Place a vegetable of your choice on the plate.
     Spoon the nicoise sauce partially over the petite salmon filets and onto the plate.
     Sprinkle a pinch of thin sliced chives and minced Italian parsley over the sauce.

     The nicoise sauce has a tomato sauce kind of look, but it has a deep rich savory flavor.  The lemon adds a light zesty flavor to the sauce.  Nicoise olives are not always easy to find.  Nicoise olives have a mellower flavor than Greek kalamata olives.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

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