eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

Category: SEAFOOD

Meet In Your Kitchen | Chez Boulan’s Oysters at Stunning Cap Ferret

Cap Ferret is a dream in pastel blue and pink. The beach seems endless, the sky sinking silently into the waves that hit the shore like a rock, angry thunderous foam vanishing meekly on the golden sand. It’s a place you never want to leave again, just walk forever, barefoot and happy, and the sun in your face.

I came to this headland touching the Atlantic in the Aquitaine region in France to eat oysters. It was a simple mission, I expected good, pure and honest tasting oysters, fresh like a sip of the sea, but I wasn’t prepared for so much beauty! In the summer months, the seaside villages turn into a crazy beehive, we skipped that and were welcomed by tranquil bliss. Two landscapes dominate the cap, the open sea and vast beaches on the west, and the lagoon on the east, the Bassin d’Arcachon changing its face constantly due to the tides. This is the lap where mother nature lets the best oysters in the world grow slowly over 4 to 5 years, nurtured and rinsed by clear French waters.

Alison and her husband Alex run Damien Boulan’s wonderful Chez Boulan restaurant. It’s a bit like a beach hut, built out of wood, the wind blowing the salty air through the open kitchen, the garden looks almost tropical. There’s a wooden pier above the fading water that seems like the perfect place to sit and enjoy a plate full of fleshy oysters and a glass of white wine – if only I could sit there every day. Damian took over the family business from his father, he’s passionate when it comes to oysters and spends most of his time taking care of them at the banks. They are like babies, you have to look after them. It’s a lot of work that the whole cap seems to be dedicated to, with deep love for their work and the sea.

When Alison told me to pick oysters from the baskets at the entrance of the restaurant for my lunch, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Various shapes and colors, small and large shells, and they all smelled and looked so beautiful. I had an oyster tasting, which I highly recommend to get a feeling for the fine differences – there are no rules, you just follow your taste. The same counts for serving, some prefer this treat from the sea pure or with a squeeze of tangy lemon, or with sour mignonette, French shallot vinaigrette, just a few drops are enough. Alison added a new inspiration to the palate, freshly chopped mint leaves. Whatever you go for, just make sure that the oysters come straight from the sea, freshly cracked open in front of your eyes, like at Chez Boulan.

If you plan a trip to Cap Ferret, stay at the stunning La Maison du Bassin hotel. Each room looks like an old captain’s cabin, the wood is dark and the view is breathtaking. And don’t forget to book a table for dinner, the food and wine are divine. You might order too much wine and champagne from their fantastic menu, but don’t worry, the hearty breakfast with eggs and croissant will make up for it.

In the next months, I’ll share many Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

 

Cap Ferret Oysters à la Chez Boulan

Serves 1

For the mignonette

60ml / ¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon shallot, very finely chopped
Ground black pepper

6-12 fresh French oysters (preferably from Cap Ferret)
1 lemon
A few fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

For the mignonette, in a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and shallot and season to taste with a little pepper.

Arrange the oysters on a large plate and enjoy them pure, with a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of mint, or a drizzle of the mignonette – and a glass of chilled white wine!

 

How long has Damian Boulan been in charge of the family business?

For 10 years. He grew up here but after university, he went to Paris to be a journalist. He and his father used to speak about the idea to create a degustation – like this garden. This is the garden where we welcome our guests, but it used to be the garden of the Boulan family.

So, the family lives here?

Yes, the mother still lives on the other side of the cabin. They used to talk about the idea to create something like this. Unfortunately, Damian’s father died and Damian was told to come back to take over the business, to work with oysters, and to continue the family history. When he was told about this project of his father, he created it.

But first he didn’t want to become an oyster farmer?

No, but when you see him working with the oysters, you can see this is a real passion now. It’s his history.

Where are the oysters?

Most of our oysters are behind the Mimbeau – the Mimbeau is the sandbank that you can see – and they are just behind there. You cannot imagine it but behind there are a lot of banks and most of our oysters are there.

Is there a season for oysters? 

We have a saying in France, that you eat oysters during the months with an “R”. So, September, October, November, and so on. The idea that it’s “bad” to eat them in the summertime is because this is the period of the “milk”. That’s why. But you can eat oysters all year long.

What is the milk?

The milk is the way for the oysters to reproduce. During that period, you can see a bag of milk , but not like milk that you can drink. We call it milk because it’s creamy.

(Oysters are protandric and spawn in summer, they look swollen and milky. During their first year, they spawn as males by releasing sperm into the water. As they grow over the next two to three years, they spawn as females by releasing eggs.)

Someone told me that some people specifically like them during this time of the year.

Yes, yes. In summer, we tell people if the oysters are milky or not, because they are very surprised when they realise that this is the period, although it’s totally normal.

How do environmental changes affect the oysters?

I’m not a specialist but as we work very closely with the production, we know that the oysters need more time to grow because of climate change. They used to need 3 years to grow, but now it’s 3 to 4 years. It depends.

Because the water is warmer?

Yes, because of the water, and there is less food for the oysters.

Do you have a kitchen hack that you can share with us?

There are two ways to open an oyster. You have to choose the one you like, but the idea is to keep the oyster “safe” and whole. We (at Chez Boulan) open it from the base of the oyster. We put the knife in here just like this and then, we lift the knife up, and then we cut. The idea is that when you have the second part of the oyster, there is nothing on the second part.

Thank you, Alison!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet In Your Kitchen | Paris and the Mystery of Chez Allard

Chez Allard

In 1932, Madame Marthe Allard decided to open a restaurant in Paris, Chez Allard. It is the beginning of a story deeply woven into traditional French country cuisine, a story of resolute women who love to cook, who master French classics to perfection, and passionately share their creations on Rue Saint-André des Arts, in the heart of the lively St German-des-Prés, until today. You could call Chez Allard a gourmet bistro, cozily elegant, the flaming red benches and wooden chairs in front of floral wallpaper filled with happy guests for more than 80 years. The interior barely changed, and so did the dishes on the menu, there’s still a strong focus on many of Madame Allard’s original family recipes from Burgundy, passed from one woman to the next.

As soon as her son’s wife, Fernande, joined the family, the chef didn’t hesitate to introduce the young woman to all her kitchen secrets, and so the next generation was secured. Marthe Allard stayed in the small kitchen on Rue Saint-André des Arts all her life, for more than half a century, tweaking and refining her famous rustic staples, like Challans Duck with Olives or Sole Meunière.

After decades of female power at the cooker, there was finally a man in charge for 20 years, but when Alain Ducasse took over the restaurant, he knew he’d pass the reign to a woman again. Chez Allard has a female spirit, a female soul, Chez Allard is a woman. Since 2015, Fanny Herpin has been responsible for keeping the restaurant’s tradition alive, the recipes that became “old culinary friends” to so many guests. The young and celebrated executive chef manages to incorporate this history and at the same time giving it validity 80 years after the first pages of Allard were written. Fanny is calm, quiet, but she’s a woman you shouldn’t underestimate. Her instructions are short and precise, she’s charismatic. When you open the ornate glass door to the restaurant, you stand right in front of Chez Allard‘s heart, the kitchen. The room is open and there isn’t much space to move, this kitchen has to work smoothly and there’s no doubt that Fanny accomplishes this task with grandeur.

Fanny Herpin is from Bordeaux, like Alain Ducasse, they even learned at the same culinary school. Both of them feel the same strong connection to their home region’s famous cuisine and products and have many of them freshly brought to the restaurant every day, like the fois gras on Allard‘s menu. When Fanny talks about food, or when she peels carrots with the precision of a scientist, you can feel her love, her passion, her obsession with quality. When she discovered the wonders of cooking and baking, she was hooked. Alan Ducasse was always her idol, she studied his recipes, she dove deeply into the magic that he’s been creating for decades. So when he called her to ask if she’d like to fill the position at Chez Allard, she was just 26, she remembers, “It was a big day, I didn’t believe it was possible. I asked are you sure, me?” She says that she’s still a little bit nervous when he comes and visits her at the restaurant. There’s a humble heart inside this strong, inspiring woman.

The dish that she cooked together with us felt like a bite of Paris, her Petits Rougets Barbets au Beurre Blanc (red mullet with a buttery, vinegary shallot sauce and sautéed root vegetables) was as pretty and perfect as the city that it was made in.

In the next months, I’ll share many Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Chez Allard

Petits Rougets au Beurre Blanc

(Red Mullet with Beurre Blanc and Glazed Roots)

By Chef Fanny Herpin – Chez Allard

Serves 4

For the Beurre Blanc

80g / 3 ounces shallots, finely chopped
150ml / 2/3 cup aged wine vinegar
50ml / ¼ cup dry white wine
3g mignonnette pepper (coarsely ground pepper)
400g / 14 ounces cold Echiré butter, cut into small pieces
Juice of ½ lemon

For the vegetables

4 navet turnips
4 large carrots
1 yellow turnip
¼ celeriac
1 green radish
4 red radishes
4 baby leeks
50ml / ¼ cup olive oil
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, with skin
1 sprig of thyme
500ml / 2 cups and 1 tablespoon chicken broth
30g / 2 tablespoons butter

For the fish

4 red mullet fillets, about 250g / 9 ounces each
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

For the Beurre Blanc, in a medium saucepan, bring the shallots, vinegar, wine, and mignonette pepper to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the sauce gently and gradually add the butter, stirring and whisking constantly to combine the sauce and the butter. If you add too much butter at once, the sauce won’t bind. Adjust the seasoning and add a dash of lemon juice; set aside (at room temperature).

For the vegetables, peel the turnips, carrots, celeriac, and green radish. Cut the celeriac into diamond shapes, the green radish and turnips into “half moons”. Scrape and rinse the red radishes.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil. Rinse the leeks and blanch until soft. Transfer to a bowl filled with ice water, immerse quickly, and lay on paper towels. Cut the leeks into strips.

In a large heavy pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the vegetables separately for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer all the vegetables to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, thyme, and broth, cover the pan, and cook until soft. Before serving, add the butter, stir to glaze the vegetables, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the fish, season the mullet fillets with salt and pepper on the meat side. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large heavy pan over medium-high heat and sear the fillets, skin side down, for 4 minutes or until the fish is done, the skin should be lightly crispy. Flip the mullets over, then transfer to a grid and set aside.

Arrange the mullet fillets, slightly overlapping each other, on one side of the plate, the vegetables on the other side, and a spoonful of the Beurre Blanc in the middle. Serve immediately.

Chez Allard

 

Chez Allard

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do and who you are?

My name is Fanny and I’m from Bordeaux. I’m 27 and I’m Head Chef at Allard, a restaurant from Alain Ducasse.

In which part of France did you grow up? Where did you spend your childhood?

In Bordeaux, in the southwest of France. I studied there and afterwards, I left to Paris.

Did the cuisine of Bordeaux influence you a lot?

Yes, yes, yes, of course! The food in Bordeaux is very important for me. There is the foie gras and the duck. My mother was always cooking at home with my family, so I have a big influence from there which is always there when I cook, both at home or in the restaurant.

Do you get products from Bordeaux for Chez Allard?

Yes, the foie gras, for example. I was at the same school as Alain Ducasse in Talence. We attended the same culinary school. So, I know that the products are also important for him.

How old were you when you started your career?

I started at 22.

Did you always know that you wanted to become a chef?

Yes, yes, because I like to eat! Since always! At home, I was always cooking but more sweets, like cakes and everything. I did culinary training when I was 22 – just one week! – and I was sure.

And that was the moment that you decided no more sweets, but cooking, more savoury cooking?

Yes, exactly.

Do you still do sweets sometimes?

Sometimes, but just at home. Because it’s very different: pastry and cooking. It’s two different jobs.

Why did you want to become a chef? Was it just because you loved to eat so much or did you meet other chefs that inspired you?

Yes! Alain Ducasse, of course! When I was at school and I was starting to learn, I read a book about Alain Ducasse – the big book with all the recipes – and I knew that he has a lot of restaurants in the world: the bistro and the 3 star Michelin restaurant. So, I asked to do a culinary training in his restaurant. I did it and after that I was sure that I wanted to become a chef. I really like to manage people. It’s like a family that works together. It’s a lot of work but it’s my passion. I love to do it! I want to do it for the rest of my life.

When you started, did you ever dream that one day you would be here? That you would be the chef at Allard?

Of course I did, but I was thinking maybe after I’m 30. But I became the chef here at 26. It was really fast!

How did you feel when he called you and asked you to become the Head Chef?

(Laughing) It was a big day! I didn’t believe it was possible. I was working in London and he asked me to come here to take the position. I said, “Are you sure? Me?” He said, “Yes, come!” So, I came here one weekend, I saw Alain Ducasse, and we talked about the position here and… let’s go! One month later, I was here and I started work. I have a lot of support because it’s a big company. I am not alone. I’m the head chef for this restaurant but I have other head chefs above me so I am never alone. I always have someone to help me, to support me, if I want it. For that, it’s super!

Does Alain Ducasse come here often to see if everything is going  well?

Yes, of course. He comes sometimes to spend time with friends, but he comes for work, too.

Does it make you nervous when he’s here?

A little bit, of course, but that’s normal. I’m always impressed by him when he’s here but it’s always a good moment.

Chez Allard has a very strong line of female chefs. It was founded by Madame Allard who passed the recipes on to her daughter-in-law who took over from her. There was a female chef before you and now you’re here. Do you think that this restaurant has a female spirit or a female soul? Is Allard a woman?

Yes, it’s tradition! Marthe Allard started to cook here. After her, it was Fernande. When Alain Ducasse took over the restaurant, he said, “I want to keep this tradition because it’s strong.” Laetitia Rouabah, the chef before me, worked here for three years before they asked me to take this position. It’s very important to keep the tradition. When people come here they say, “there have been female chefs here for a long time.” It’s very strong identity. For me, it’s also very important to keep that spirit.

Is there a difference between men and women running a restaurant in the kitchen? Does it feel different?

I don’t think so. It’s not about men and women. It’s just about the person and their personality. We’re all different.

There are a lot of traditional recipes on the menu that Madame Allard invented or came up with – so how much of Alain Ducasse is in the recipes here at Allard?

We keep and use all the recipes, but Alain Ducasse brings less sugar, less salt, and less fat to the recipes. That, for Alain, for all his restaurants, is the way to think and to work now.

How often do you change the menu? 

I keep a menu throughout the year, but some dishes I change according to the season. For example, we have just started to introduce root vegetables and pigeon to the menu. In the summer, it was tomato salads and raw fish. We change the menu every two or three months, depending on the season.

Do you have a favourite season?

It’s now! (late summer) Yes. The pigeons, and all the different birds – it’s a very exciting time.

Do you love Paris?

Yes, of course (laughing)! I really like this city because there are a lot of different restaurants: bistros, Michelin restaurants, and also there are a lot of small restaurants with different food and cultures. So that’s interesting for me. And it’s a beautiful city. You can walk everywhere – it’s beautiful.

Do you go to restaurants a lot?

Yes, sometimes. I try to go once a week.

Can you go out and eat at a restaurant and just relax and enjoy it? Or do you analyse the food?

No, I’m always thinking but it’s less than before (laughing). Before, I was too hard!

What does healthy food mean for you?

Healthy food, for me, is when you use good products, produced in a way that respects the environment, and when it’s good for you, for the body, for your health. Voila!

What is your greatest kitchen hack?

Yes, actually I have something very important for me. It’s when you cook meat, you must let it rest. If you cook the meat for 10 minutes, then you let it rest for 10 minutes. This way, the meat is soft.

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what  would it be? Alain Ducasse?

(Laughing) No. It would Laurent Garnier because I’m a BIG fan. Maybe a dessert, like a chocolate cake, something easy and good.

If you’re going to have 10 friends over for a spontaneous dinner, and you don’t have much time to plan or go shopping, what will be on the table?

Foie gras toast! (Laughing) It’s easy!

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others when you’re at home?

Alone, I think, because I can do what I want. When there are a lot of people in the kitchen, it’s like my job here. I do that every day. I always have to check everything and to be everywhere. So, sometimes I really like to cook alone, just me in the kitchen, to relax, and to take the time to cook.

Do you prefer improvised or planned cooking? Again, at home in your own kitchen.

Planned. Always.

So even when you cook at home you always know exactly how you’re going to do it?

Of course! I always know what I want to do – I have everything in my head. Sometimes, at home, if I’m missing an ingredient, it’s ok. I can remove it. Here at the restaurant, it’s not possible, but at home, I can change it.

But there’s always a plan?

Yes. Always. I’ve always worked like that!

Thank you very much, Fanny!

Chez Allard

 

Chez Allard

 

Chez Allard

 

Chez Allard

 

Chez Allard

Meet In Your Kitchen | Cécile Molinié’s Life and Cooking in Paris

Cécile Monilié

You only need to walk along the Boulevard Saint-Germain on a sunny afternoon to understand Paris. You’ll promise yourself that you’ll come back – for the rest of your life. Once you’ve seen this city, a piece of you will stay there forever. Just walk and gaze up at the facades of the elegant sandstone buildings of the 19th century Haussmann era, dotted with white wooden shutters. Or sit in a café, get comfy on a colorful French wicker chair at a marbled bistro table, a glass of crisp white wine in front of you, order a Galette, crêpe, or escargot, and look at the chic people around you scurrying on the cobblestones. The trottoir is a stage in Paris, and the bistro is the place to watch it from.

We could have just stayed in Paris, visited renowned restaurants and celebrated chefs in their praised kitchens and we would have never had to leave this inspiring city, but when we decided to include France in our culinary trips around the world together with Zwilling, I had to think of the whole picture that the country paints. France, to me, is the trinity of Paris, the countryside, and the sea. It’s the capital’s seductive charm, its haute cuisine, food temples that attract gourmets from all over the world to enjoy the pleasures of French tradition, to create the best food with the most refined techniques and ingredients. It’s a city that rouses and satisfies your appetite, you’ll never get enough of it.

Then there’s the countryside and its more rural cooking, frugal, hearty, and meaty, all those wonderful delicacies coming from the soil and the woods, and also the home of French wine. And which region would be better to learn about the country’s famous wines and winemakers than the picturesque Médoc. There are so many fantastic French reds and whites and there’s a compelling mystique about the vineyards covering the slopes around the city of Bordeaux.

To make the trilogy complete, we have to look at the sea. All those oysters and clams, fresh fish and lobster, these treats that are often served raw or so pure that you can still taste their salty freshness. It’s always better to go to the fruits from the sea than letting them come to you, so we packed our bags and went to Cap Ferret. It’s a long peninsula stretching into the rough and cold Bay of Biscay, where the beaches are long and lonely, the people are kind and welcoming, and you can eat the best oysters of your life straight from the banks, all day long.

So we started our trip in Paris and Cécile Molinié’s kitchen was the first place we visited for a new series of Meet In Your Kitchen features in France.

Cécile Monilié

Four children and a cat called Cookie are enviably lucky to call Cécile Molinié their maman. Her Paris kitchen is the cozy heart of the big family’s beautiful home close to the Jardin du Luxembourg, in the capital’s vivid Quartier Latin. The room is bigger than normal city kitchens and opens onto a spacious, green terrace. It’s filled with lots of light, life, and laughter, while delicious food spread out on the large island and table is a tempting invitation to come together and indulge in maman‘s creations. It’s a family kitchen where the six Parisians, Cécile, her husband, and their kids, meet to share their day, to cook together, and turn their daily meals into little feasts.

Cécile is an excellent cook, her grandmothers passed their passion on to her and this heritage found fruitful ground in the young woman, she’s been fascinated by the excitements of the culinary world since she was a little girl. At the age of 16, Cécile already prepared the meals for dinner parties of 20 guests at her parents’ home. The house was always open to friends, her mother loved to entertain, but didn’t feel inspired by the kitchen herself. So Cécile gladly took over those duties and became more and more skilled as a cook, she refined her taste and became impressively precise through experience and practice. Tender Boeuf Bourguignon, Blanquette de Veau, or petite Madeleines are staples in her repertoire, she loves the famous French classics and curiously dives into the country’s different regional cuisines.

Cécile Monilié

Southern France inspired her to create a recipe for sea bass bedded on sugary-sweet roasted tomatoes. She finishes off the summery composition with lemon slices grilled in the oven until the edges are crisp and golden, it’s a colorful firework of flavors and textures. How could I disagree when she offered to cook this dish together with me in her kitchen? I’ve been waiting impatiently for the day to come to finally meet her, in the kitchen that I knew from her famous Instagram account where she shares visual bites from her life. The pictures are stunning, she’s just as talented behind the camera as she is at the cooker. You can feel her love for her city, so much so that you want to stroll along the Seine, the bistros and boulevards together with her. When she visits her second home just outside Paris and posts episodes from her country life, you seriously wish you could move in with the whole family.

So we finally met in Paris, but before we pulled the pots and pans out of the cupboards in her kitchen to cook, we went to the beautiful market on Rue Mouffetard in the 5ème arrondissement. The shops and stalls of the daily farmers’ market gathered on this street make you want to pack your bags and make Paris your home. We filled our shopping baskets with wonderfully milky Sainte-Maure de Touraine, ripe Saint-Nectaire from Auvergne, and the creamiest SaintMarcellin from Fromagerie Véron. The beauty of the presentation at the fishmonger took my breath away. Quality and freshness are unbeatable, wherever you look. Gills and eyes clear and shiny, crabs are still alive, bulots (sea snails) freshly cooked, and the oysters in the wooden baskets taste salty-cold like the sea. Cécile’s butcher is right next door, you can smell the golden poulet rôti rotating on metal skewers all along the cobblestone street, their hot juices dripping onto the potato wedges perfectly placed at the bottom of the grill. Packed with warm baguettes from the boulangerie under our arms, the baskets overflowing with all these delicacies, we went back to Cécile’s kitchen and started cooking.

In the next months, I’ll share many Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Cécile Monilié

Sea Bass with Candied Tomatoes and Roasted Artichokes and Potatoes

By Cécile Molinié

 Serves 4-6

For the sea bass

1kg / 2 ¼ pounds cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Fine sea salt
Ground black pepper
2 organic lemons, very thinly sliced
2 large sea bass fillets
A few young sprigs fresh thyme

For the side dish

4-6 baby artichokes, trimmed
1 lemon
1kg / 2 ¼ pounds little potatoes (preferably a sweet variety), rinsed and scrubbed
Olive oil
Fine sea salt
Ground black pepper

Preheat the oven 170°C / 350°F.

Spread the cherry tomatoes in a large baking dish, add a splash of olive oil, salt, and pepper, mix, and roast for 1 hour or until soft and candied.

While the tomatoes are in the oven, spread the lemon slices in a large baking dish, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and bake them, with the tomatoes, for 30 minutes or until they soften.

For the side dish, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the juice of 1 lemon and the artichokes, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain, rinse quickly with cold water, and set aside.

Cook the potatoes in a medium pot of salted water for about 15-20 minutes or until almost soft; drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F.

When the tomatoes are done, arrange the sea bass on top of them, season with salt and pepper, and cover with the roasted lemon slices. Roast for about 10-15 minutes or until the fish fillets are done, you should be able to flake the fish with a fork. Mind that you don’t overcook it. Sprinkle with the thyme.

While the fish is in the oven, heat a splash of olive oil in a large heavy pan and sauté the potatoes and artichokes over medium heat, stirring once in a while, for about 15 minutes or until golden and crispy. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately when the fish is done.

Cécile Monilié

What brought you to Paris? 

I came here because of university. My younger sister was admitted to a very good post-baccalaureate school, Henri IV, here in this neighbourhood. As I was the eldest one and I was good with managing a home and cooking, my mother wanted us to go together. So I was admitted to the prestigious law school here, and then…I never left!

Did you fall in love with the city immediately?

Paris? No, because I was the country girl, and there was all this noise….The year we arrived, there was a big strike during the winter and all the cars were stuck and it was a big mess…

So, you didn’t have an easy start?

No, but we could go back to the country every weekend. At the university, I didn’t know anyone – there were 1000 students! And I was the little girl from the country inside the big city…

Were you always interested in photography?

Yes, yes. I remember that when I was a child, I won a little camera because I did a drawing contest, and then when I was 16, my dad gave my sister and I a nice Canon camera – I remember! An old one, you know an analogique (analog).

How did you get into cooking? 

I love to cook. My mother is more an intellectual woman than a….

…a kitchen woman?

Yes! So, I had an interest in cooking – I don’t know why – and I took over the kitchen at a very young age. She let me do whatever I wanted so I tried new recipes, I made notebooks, and as my parents had lots of friends coming from all over the world – they were very welcoming – I used to cook a lot!

So you cooked for the family and for friends! For how many people?

I don’t know! But when I was 16, I could cook big meals and it was great because you have some meals where you need to be in the kitchen and do things at the last moment, so my mother was with the friends and I was cooking!

What’s your favourite dish cooked by your grandmother or one of your grandmothers?

My father’s mother used to make a very good blanquette de veau, a very good one. My mother’s mother, she’s from the southwest of France, so it’s more about zucchini, eggplants, and tomatoes, more Mediterranean – and she cooks very well, too. In my husband’s family, it’s not as we call in France plats en sauce, you know all these stews. It’s more about very good produce, cooked well.

Does your husband love to cook too?

He cooks rarely, but when he does it’s a very elaborate meal. We are great fans of Alain Passard, the chef of the Arpège. I used to be invited to his restaurant when I was a student by a friend. We go there for very special occasions, so my husband has his book and sometimes he cooks from this book. He cooks very creatively and elaborately, but not that often.

So, he’s more the weekend chef?

I would say, once a year!

So, once a year he’s the weekend chef but then he’s fantastic!

Yes, exactly! I think it’s what men do: amazing things, but not that often for food…

Where do you find your inspiration for your recipes?

At the market first because you see the food and you think “ah, I want to do that or this” and then cookbooks. I think I love cookbooks! I love to read them, I like to see the pictures, but I’m not good at following the recipes exactly.

But that’s not important! I think cookbooks are…

…a great inspiration. I still have one from when I was a very young woman and I still look at it, because the recipes are all good. Really, the inspiration comes from the market or from other people. At the market this morning, I spoke to a guy who was telling me what he was going to cook for his parents for lunch – you take ideas from everywhere! And some blogs too, but you need to have time to read them – sometimes it’s easier to have a book.

Do you prefer to cook when you’re here in Paris or in the countryside?

In the countryside, it’s usually the weekend so we have more time. And maybe you think I’m picky but I prefer to cook with gas rather than with induction.

What does healthy food mean for you?

Healthy means first of all cooked with good produce. I want my kids to have veggies and fruits every day. They are picky eaters, I must confess! I try to have them eat fresh fruit and veggies – it can be compote, it can be soups, it can be raw – healthy, for me, is when you have all the nutrients that you need in the food.And homemade, mostly homemade. I rarely buy frozen food. Some frozen pizzas just for when I have no other plan, but I prefer to cook eggs and potatoes instead.

What is your greatest kitchen hack?

When I bake cakes, I use the baking paper. In France, it’s not that automatic to do that.

So, you can’t live without baking paper?

No! And then I always have some veggies to roast. You know, I am very organized, so sometimes I start to cook in the morning – even at 7am, when the kids are just waking up. I always roast some cherry tomatoes, zucchini… And when it’s winter, pumpkin – that kind of thing. I always like to have something roasted.

So being organized in the kitchen is one of your greatest tips?

Yes, when you work and you have a lot of kids, who often come for lunch and dinner. And bread. I’m sorry, but we eat a lot of bread! I always have some bread! And butter! And cheese!

You’re going to have 10 friends for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

It’s going to be pasta – I’m sorry! – because we always have pasta and fresh Parmesan. We often have ham. In French we call that – you know the proscuittto crudo? The big ones that you can slice yourself – so I often have that. I could do pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil – I always have basil – so all good produce but very simple. And a good bottle of wine! That’s something that I would do if I had an impromptu meal with lots of people. Everybody is happy with that kind of food. And then fresh fruits or cooked fruit that’s easy to do.

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

I love Alain Passard’s food. So if he could come cook for me, a delicious vegetable dish, I would like it! I like light food.

If you could choose between improvised and planned dinners, what would you prefer?

I like to plan because I know I’m happy to plan something. It makes me happy to anticipate the people’s happiness. But sometimes, it’s stressful to plan something. You want to have a good result. I am a perfectionist, so sometimes when you plan ahead and you want people to be happy, I’m often disappointed by the result. When it’s impromptu, you don’t have much time to think about it and it’s more about the pleasure to be together. You know, I think as much as I like to plan a meal and to share it with friends, when I do something that’s not planned it is super good, too. So I don’t know what I prefer!

You like both! 

I prefer everybody to be happy around the table and laughing. If the food matters too much then sometimes you lose something in the pleasure of being together.

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

I like when my kids give me a hand, and I like to cook with friends, because it’s something to share, but I am faster by myself!

Thank you very much, Cécile!

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

Meet In Your Kitchen | Roll your own Sushi at Kyoto’s Awomb

Awomb

Kyoto shares a kind of peace with its visitors that immediately takes control over body and mind. It answers all your questions and makes you speechless.

The city has two faces, the busy modern one of concrete, glass, metal, and noise, and then there’s the quiet side, when Japan’s old capital unfolds its true beauty. It’s not superficial, this beauty touched me deeply. You can see it, smell it, and taste it. Natural materials and clear lines create a compelling minimalist aesthetic dominated by dark wood and coal colored roofs shimmering silvery in the misty light. Silent stone gardens, temples, and shrines erase the noise in your head and fill it with serenity.

If this feeling could manifest itself in a restaurant, this would be the wonderful Awomb. The restaurant is in an elegant traditional house, hard to find in a narrow side alley in old Kyoto. You sit on the floor, on Tatami mats made of rice straw, in front of a low wooden table. The room is filled with natural light, golden warm as honey. The subtle sound of the floors creaking and birds hiding in the tall pine tree in front of the window break the gentle melodies of the traditional Koto music playing in the background. It sounds a bit like a harp, melodic yet hard, pure as single water drops.

The food created here is quite a new concept. Owner Ujita Hiroshi brings hand-rolled sushi, which is usually served at home, to the restaurant table to share with friends. A bowl of white rice, a teapot filled with steaming dashi broth, and a black lacquered tray full of little plates filled with stunning delicacies are the center piece of this culinary experience: you come to Awomb to roll your own sushi in one of the prettiest rooms that I’ve seen on my trip. The food itself, each little plate, looks like a piece of art. Seafood and vegetables can be mixed and combined according to your mood and refined with various seasonings, like fresh wasabi, grated ginger, plum sauce, salted vegetables, dried shrimp with mayonnaise, or tasty soy sauce jelly cubes. You can either add the ingredients to the rice bowl and eat it with chopsticks, or you can go for sushi in seaweed – rolled in your hands.

There’s no chance that I’ll ever have such a vast variety of ingredients to choose from in my own kitchen, but it’s so inspiring, I tried totally new combinations. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t be shy, just try not to use more than 4 to 5 main flavors and you’ll be rewarded with astonishing results. I got a bit excited and went overboard – the German girl came through – but my first “sushi in a bowl” made with pink grapefruit, salmon, fried sweet potato, square bean, gari (pickled ginger), and finely cut green matcha crepes tasted fantastic. Then I combined purple potato mash, octopus, and Ikura (salmon roe) and rolled it in seaweed, which turned into such a delicious beauty that I have to share this recipe with you.

The quality of each ingredient used at Awomb is outstanding, which isn’t a surprise, Ujita Hiroshi comes from a family that has been in the sushi business for decades. However, the young man didn’t want to follow his parents’ footsteps, he decided to start his own food adventure. His vision, to make hand-rolled sushi a delicious and fun experience for friends outside their homes, is a huge success. Long lines and waiting lists call for a well-planed reservation.

In the next months, I’ll share many Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Awomb

 

Awomb

Build Your Own Sushi:

Hand-rolled Sushi and Sushi in a Bowl inspired by Awomb

Serves 2

For the mashed purple potatoes

100g / 3.5 ounces boiled and peeled purple potato, cooled
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon butter
Fine sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

For the hand rolled sushi

Dried seaweed, cut into squares
Sushi rice (recipe below)
Octopus, boiled and cut into bite-sized slices
Ikura (salmon roe)

For the sushi in a bowl

Sushi rice (recipe below)
Pink grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments
Raw salmon, sushi grade, cut into bite size slices
Fried sweet potato
Boiled Edamame beans
Gari (pickled ginger)
Matcha crepe, very finely chopped
(if you make your own crêpes, mix 1 tablespoon of cooking grade matcha powder with 90g / 2/3 cup of plain flour)

Seasonings (optional)

Freshly grated wasabi
Freshly grated ginger
Plum sauce
Soy sauce

For the mashed purple potatoes, purée the potato, heavy cream, and butter in a blender or food processor until smooth and season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

For the hand rolled sushi, place 1 tablespoon of sushi rice in the middle of a sheet of dried seaweed. Add 1 teaspoon of the mashed purple potatoes, a slice of octopus, and half a teaspoon of salmon roe. Roll like a cigar, add seasonings to taste, and enjoy.

For the sushi in a bowl, add about 2 tablespoons of sushi rice to a small bowl and stir in seasonings to taste (add just a little bit). Add 1 grapefruit segment, 2 slices of salmon, 1 crumbled slice of fried sweet potato, 2 Edamame beans, and a little pickled ginger. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the chopped matcha crêpe and enjoy!

For the sushi rice

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin (rice wine similar to sake)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
180g / 1 cup short-grain sushi rice
240ml / 1 cup cold water

In a small bowl, heat the vinegar, mirin, sugar, and salt, over low heat, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve; let it cool.

Rinse the rice 4-5 times with cold water, then drain in a colander for 15 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, bring the rice and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the rice for 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and let it rest for 15 minutes, don’t lift the lid. Transfer the rice to a large glass bowl.

Sprinkle the warm rice with the cold vinegar mixture and stir gently, you can fan the rice while mixing, that will help it to dry if it’s too sticky. Cover with a damp kitchen towel while you prepare the sushi. Sushi rice is best served at body temperature.

Awomb

 

Awomb

What inspired you to open a sushi restaurant? 

My parents ran a sushi restaurant that was very traditional but I wanted to do something different, something unique to me. I decided to focus on the idea of customers making their own sushi in an enjoyable way, and I started my own place.

Is that popular in Japan?

Hand rolled sushi (temakizushi) is popular now but it’s basically something that’s not eaten out. Everyone eats it with their families at home or at house parties. I thought that people would probably enjoy it if they could do something different and eat it at restaurants.

Which ingredients do you serve for the sushi creations?

Please let me tell you about aezushi, it’s sushi that you mix and prepare yourself. Firstly, we have vegetables and fish, we have sashimi – grilled conger eel – and turnip. There are vegetables from Kyoto that we often use, and this is yuba – a delicacy made from soybean milk. Further we have mackerel, which is served pickled in vinegar and Japanese scallop. Then we have shirae, a salad with white sesame, tofu, and white miso. We have aemono, which is vegetable, fish or shellfish dressed with miso, vinegar or sesame. Here is squid and fish roe. When you’re preparing the dish, you mix the seasoning with the other things and then eat it. We have lightly grilled skipjack tuna with deep fried tofu. Pickled ginger. Broccoli. There’s also octopus. Conger eel. Salmon. Pumpkin. Pak Choi and Kyoto taro root.

And we also have the soup. I’ll light the flame, once smoke starts to come out, it’s done. Then you mix it with small boletus mushrooms and eat it.

Thank you, Ujita Hiroshi!

Awomb

 

Awomb

 

Awomb

 

Awomb

 

Awomb

 

Awomb

Meet In Your Kitchen | Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market & the Secret of Sushi Dai

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

Traveling is bliss. To leave the known behind and discover new tastes and smells, cities and landscapes is food for our minds, it lets us grow, change, and evolve.

Flying into Tokyo and seeing its cityscape spread out peacefully in front of me in misty pastel colors felt unbearably exciting. It’s a place where I had never been before, a place that everybody told me would change me, and my culinary perspectives. Food plays a central role in Japan’s complex culture, food of high quality is not a random choice, it’s a philosophy, they are tied together, inseparable. I was curious and impatient to put the first bites of the country’s celebrated cuisine into my mouth, but also to wander around and fully experience the next stop of my culinary trip around the world together with Zwilling.

Japan is a world of contrasts, connecting the past and the future, silence and noise, gardens and buildings, minimalism and colorful kitsch, it all exists right next to each other, framed by a fascinating culture of multiple layers, it’s not easy to grasp. Its depth is captivating and disorienting, it’s mysterious, and sometimes hard to understand for someone who comes from the outside. I usually visit countries for my Meet in Your Kitchen features that I’m personally connected with, either through former trips or through my own culinary upbringing. So I usually take a lot of experience, information, and understanding for a culture with me, but when you enter a world that you’ve never seen before, you can’t just look at its kitchens. It’s not enough to visit the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo or talk to the cities’ celebrated chefs and enjoy unknown culinary pleasures at their excellent restaurants.

I wanted to see more, I wanted to listen to the stories – or at least some of them – that make this culture so rich and colorful, in and outside the kitchen. I joined a tea ceremony at 6 in the morning when the sun and the birds just woke up. I visited the famous temples in Kyoto, we stayed at one of them (Jorengein) overnight, and I interviewed a temple gardener to gain a better understanding of the gardens and their centuries-old architecture. I got swept away by this overwhelming peace that takes over your mind like a wave, when you sit on the wooden steps in front of the meditative gardens of the Ryoanji or Kenninji Temple. Time seems to stop as you enter the stone gardens, there seems to be an invisible curtain between the world outside and the world inside the temples’ walls.

I felt a bit worried, how would it feel to be in a country where you can’t read any signs, where you can’t really communicate, or even order a taxi or book a table at a restaurant? Would I get lost in translation and miss out on the “real” Japan? I believe the best way to discover a new city is on foot, to walk and keep your eyes open, and not to be shy. Just smile, the easiest form of human communication. That’s what we did on our first evening in Tokyo and within seconds we found one culinary gem after the other.

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

The Tsukiji fish market has its own pace, it’s fast, busy, and loud, it’s a universe with its own rules. The craziness starts late at night, at 2am. When Tokyo is still asleep and covered in quiet darkness, fishermen, chefs, and fishmongers stream into the legendary halls to buy and sell, to bid on tuna at the famous auction and ship the daily catch out into the world.

The floor under the filigree metal construction built in 1935 is grey and wet from the ice, daylight cutting sharply through the skylights falls onto men in rubber boots carrying bags and boxes, running diligently, or driving little electronic carts so fast that you have to jump quickly to save your life. It’s a man’s world, running like clockwork. The world’s biggest market for fish and seafood is the heart of the fishing industry. It’s the place where the sea’s treasures are rated and traded, where the best fish in the world is taken straight into the kitchens of the sushi restaurants that set up their businesses in the low buildings around the market. Yet it’s also the place where you can listen to the stories of the people who’ve been working with the sea and its gifts for generations, these people are concerned about the state of this sensitive ecosystem. The number of fish decreased dramatically and shoals that used to pass the coasts seasonally are missing. Due to global warming, summer fish fills the fishing grounds during winter and the fish that used to flourish in the cold season is nowhere to be found. There is such a beautiful and rich variety out in the seas, which we’ve always used in our kitchens, but we have to keep the balance. The fishmongers and chefs that I met all said the same. “Fish and seafood used to be a delicacy, a special treat, if we degrade it to fast food, we’re going to lose this treasure!” says Mr. Yokoyama, the owner of EIKO Suisan Fisherman fish store at Tsukiji.

At Tsukiji, you can admire the whole abundance that nature gives us, hundreds of different kinds of fish and seafood, in all colors and sizes, mussels, crustaceans, octopus, and sazae (turban sea snail). It’s almost mesmerizing to wander through the corridors between the stalls, which makes it hard to pull yourself away from it. Going straight to one of the most celebrated restaurants in the area definitely helps. Sushi Dai is just outside the market, you can easily spot it, as it has the longest waiting list and queue lined up outside the curtains swinging at its door.

Chef and owner, Urushibara Satoshi, has two outstanding qualities. There’s no doubt that he makes some of the best sushi creations in town, he learned from his father, but this man also has highly entertaining qualities. He’s like a conductor and Sushi Dai is his stage. Behind his narrow restaurant’s counter, he attentively cuts the fish and shapes the rice, you can see that he was trained for more than 20 years to become the master that he is today. The movement of his hand and arm looks like a smooth dance, so concentrated yet intuitive. And this man is funny! As he placed one gorgeous creation after the other in front of us, he told us stories with the dramatic voice of an actor, you can see and taste that he truly enjoys what he does.

Every morning at around 3am, he goes to the Tsukiji market to pick the fish for the menu. The relationship between him and his suppliers is close. He knows that a pure minimal treat like sushi depends on the quality of its ingredients. Sushi is what it’s made of, a handful of ingredients. So trust the masterly hands of Urushibara Satoshi and his team of chefs and go for the Omakase menu. Depending on the daily catch and find at the fish market, you can indulge in the freshest tuna, flounder, and horse mackerel, or Ikura (salmon roe) rolled in seaweed. Scallops and clams, prawns and sea urchin, every piece looks like a piece of art, every bite is like tasting the sea.

Thank you Mr. Yokoyama for showing us around at Tsukiji, Urushibara Satoshi for your fantastic sushi and humor, and Makiko for guiding us through your city!

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

How to make sushi

I’ll share a recipe for sushi rice with you, but when it comes to the most important ingredient, the fish, I can only recommend to go to your trusted fish monger and ask him which fish he can offer, fish of the best sushi quality. After I ate sushi in Japan, prepared by outstanding sushi masters, I don’t even bother eating it anywhere else anymore. No matter if you go for fatty tuna belly, halibut or fish roe, it has to be of the best quality. Then you just cut it into slices, eat it pure, or lay it on a bite of rice. Heaven.

For the sushi rice

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin (rice wine similar to sake)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
180g / 1 cup short-grain sushi rice
240ml / 1 cup cold water

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, mirin, sugar, and salt, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved; let it cool.

Rinse the rice 4-5 times with cold water, then drain in a colander for 15 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, bring the rice and water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the rice for 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and let the rice rest for 15 minutes, don’t lift the lid. Transfer the rice to a large glass bowl.

Sprinkle the warm rice with the cold vinegar mixture and stir gently, you can fan the rice while mixing, that will help it to dry, if it’s too sticky. Cover with a damp kitchen towel while preparing the sushi. Sushi rice is best at body temperature.

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

Interview with Urushibara Satoshi, Sushi Dai restaurant, Tokyo

Can you tell us about your work?

I come to work in the morning, go to buy fish, and then I spend the rest of the day serving customers. At 3am I go to buy the fish, and then start making sushi at 4:30 am.

 

How old were you when you started learning to make sushi?

I was 18. So, that’s 27 years ago. I came to the restaurant 25 years ago. I started off making kaiseki ryori in Kyoto. For two years. Then I came back to Tokyo and became a sushi master.

What made you become a sushi master?

As I said, I started off in kaiseki ryori. This is a world where you can’t directly serve a customer until you’ve been doing it for 20 or 30 years, and then it’s just serving sashimi or something. I wanted to be talking to the customers. And within the world of Japanese cuisine, it was only as a sushi master that I could serve customers face to face. So, it wasn’t that I became a sushi master because I wanted to, I just had to become a sushi master. And I also just enjoyed it too. That was the first time I really enjoyed my work. I mean, with kaiseki ryori you don’t really get to meet the customers. You’re working behind the scenes, and it’s usually the women who serve the food. The chef has to stay hidden in the shadows. But I didn’t want this. I wanted to chat with the customers while I was serving them.

What is your most cherished childhood memory connected to the kitchen?

In the kitchen? I just used to get scolded (laughs). But ever since I was a child, I really loved cooking. I don’t know if I was any good, but I would imitate and pretend I was chopping things with a knife, for example. When I was in second or third grade, you know how everyone used to try and peel an apple in one long piece? Well, I was always top of the class in that! Also, if you’re going to be a chef, you need more than to be good at cooking. It’s most suited to someone who loves eating. More than being good at the actual cooking, feeling a real passion, and a hunger for food and eating is more important. If you don’t have any interest at all in eating, then there’s no way you’ll improve. No way.

What are the essential features of a good knife for you? What makes a good knife?

First of all there’s the length of the one I use. There are lots of different types of lengths. And it comes down to the weight, the thickness of the steel. At first, this knife used to be this long. But you sharpen it. So, it gradually becomes shorter and shorter. So the length and things like that are not features that last. Because the knife just gets gradually shorter. So, what else? The most important thing is that it can be controlled most effectively. I mean that it cuts exactly as you want it to. After that, the weight… Well, there are different types of people. People who like lightweight knives tend to use the strength of their arm to cut. I like heavier knives, and I use the weight of the knife to cut the fish. So, for me, I prefer a long, heavy knife. But it depends what kind of person you are. Everyone’s different so I can’t give a definitive answer. But that’s what I like.

How old is your knife?

I’m about 3 to 4 years into this one. On average, I would replace it after around 6 years.

How do environmental changes affect the fish that you buy for your restaurant?

Yes, it has had a huge impact. But, I don’t know if it’s the climate, or the flow of the ocean. This year, there’s the kuroshio Japan current, and the fish follow the flow of rivers where there are a lot of plankton. So, they come closer, don’t they. Then, when this Japan current approaches, that’s when we fish. But, this year it’s more erratic, so there are lots of types of fish that don’t come close to Japan as a result. So, I don’t know if it’s the temperature, or related to the flow of rivers. But there are fish we can’t catch. Each year it’s something different: one year might be good for yellowtail and the next year might be bad; or one year is good for saury and the next is bad; or another year might be terrible for sardines. It’s like this every year. For example, I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and each year has been different. No two years are the same. At the moment, for example, there is a lack of urchins. This year, the fishermen can’t catch any salmon, and the saury is not so good. There are so many different situations. That’s why you have to adapt each year. You just simply can’t keep making the same sushi for 25 years. The fat distribution is also completely different. I mean, completely. This is what a battle with nature looks like. So, I keep an eye on the weather forecast. And depending on the weather, you have to change the fish you stock. It’s not like we’re working in a factory doing the same thing day in day out. You also have to check whether the fishermen were able to take their boats out. So, yes, of course. I go to the market, and, of course, I buy the fish that is there. But, how can I say? There are some fish that you don’t want to run out of. So, with these, if there’s a typhoon on the way, we can stock up on them before it comes and store them while they’re at their best. There are lots of different approaches.

Do you think we should change the way we consume fish? Like eating less fish?

Yeah, statistically… there are graphs, according to these, there’s been a dramatic decrease in the amount of fish people eat. But, compared with when I was young, ‘conveyor belt’ sushi restaurants are really popular. So I think sushi has become something really familiar for young people. This also has made it feel like something cheap. When we were young, if you didn’t have wads of cash, you couldn’t eat sushi – that’s the image I had. So, it has definitely become something more familiar for the younger generation. So, even in and around my restaurant, we get a lot of university students coming in, even in the morning. That’s something you never would have seen in the past.

How we can deal with the situation?

This is something that we battle year in year out, day in day out. All you can do is do as much as you can. That means keeping going until you get to a stage where you don’t want to make sushi with the fish that is available. I don’t know if this situation will ever come. I don’t know if this day will ever come. But I just want to keep going until it does. But if it does get to a point where I don’t want to work with the fish that is available, then I will quit.

Thank you, Urushibara Satoshi!

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

Meet In Your Kitchen | Alana Kysar’s Hawaiian Poke & her sunny life in LA

Alana Kyser

Driving up and down Hollywood’s soft hills is like swinging in a cradle in one of those dreams that you never want to end. Seduced by the sweet city cocktail of warm asphalt and colorful blossoms popping up behind the iron gates of the elegant Spanish-style mansions along the endless streets and boulevards cutting through the city, I had to pinch myself to believe that I finally arrived at the first stop of my culinary trip around the world, an adventure I started together with Zwilling.

These trips will take me to different continents to meet the locals and dive into the secrets and excitements of their cuisines. The cooking of each country, region, or even village is unique, but despite the differences, we have one thing in common wherever we live: we meet in the kitchen, at the table, to eat, drink, and feast together with the ones we love. This has never changed and I don’t believe that this will ever change.

LA wins me over in an instant, always, whenever I go there. There seems to be freedom in the air, no boundaries, but opportunities. Palm trees gracefully grow into the endless blue sky, and even the Pacific hitting the long beaches of Venice and Malibu with its wild waves seem to mellow down as it touches the city’s golden sand. LA just puts a smile on your face, you can’t help it, it makes you focus on what’s possible rather than the obstacles. It’s magical and this might be the reason why so many people from all over the country working in the food scene come together in this beautiful spot in California, to work together, to create, and to let their visions come alive.

This, and the fact that the state’s unbelievably pleasing weather lets the produce grow so lusciously that it turns the land into a Garden of Eden. Whoever I met in LA, praised the gift of having the best fruits and vegetables at hand almost all year round. All the chefs, home cooks, and farmers who I met in California, who often came from far-flung places and left their home town or country behind, were pulled and inspired by the ingredients that California brings to their kitchens.

Alana Kyser

This woman has the sweetest smile and the cutest sausage dog and I don’t remember what hit me first when I met Alana Kysar in the hall of her elegant home in LA. The blogger and soon to be cookbook author lights up a room with her positive attitude and aura and makes you want to just sit in her kitchen and chat – and that’s what I did.

I had been following Alana’s work on her food blog, Fix Feast Flairand on Instagram for years and she successfully made me curious to learn more about the cuisine of her roots. Born and raised in Hawaii, she has an inspiring cooking heritage that shines through most of the creations that come out of the kitchen in her new hometown LA. Her poke recipe in particular roused my appetite just by the look of the pictures on her blog and to finally cook this dish together with her in her minimalist kitchen perfectly equipped with a knife collection that would make every chef jealous, felt just right. We stood at the long counter, attentively watched by her sausage dog, LA’s skyline sparkling right behind us, cutting tender tuna fillets that felt like butter. I can honestly say that I considered moving to California in that moment and becoming my host’s sous-chef.

According to Alana, it’s best to enjoy a bowl of poke on the beach, with a six pack of beer and a bunch of friends after work. It’s a Hawaiian classic, slightly similar to Peruvian ceviche, however, the fish stays raw, it’s not cured in citrus juices as in the South-American version. It’s a very minimal dish that impresses with its simplicity and ingredients of outstanding quality. The spotlight is on the ahi (yellowfin tuna), cut into cubes and tossed in sesame oil, soy sauce, and Hawaiian salt, then you add some onions, nuts, and seaweed, the result is unbelievably tender and tasty. It’s usually served with rice, which points to the fact that the roots of Hawaiian cooking are versatile but strongly connected to Asia. Japan, Korea, the Philippines, all these countries left a mark on the cooking of America’s 50th state, but the Hawaiians adapted it to the produce that their islands offer: mainly fish, fruit, and vegetables – and lots of sugar.

Alana was born in Kona and raised in Kula on the island of Maui, surrounded by a family of true food lovers who also brought a great portion of humor into her life. Her father often cooked with young Alana and established a judging system for her creations: she’d get points for ingredients, creativity, and presentation. Her mother introduced her to the local cuisine, laid back dishes, she’s a master in the kitchen who Alana admiringly describes with the words: she’s all that I want to be in the kitchen. One of her chicken recipes must be so good, that the daughter is still trying to beat it.

However, you shouldn’t be deceived by a beautiful woman’s smile, the soon to be author describes herself as a dictator at the cooker. She knows how she wants everything chopped and done and doesn’t accept compromises, even when it comes to her mom who had the honor – and pleasure – to test all the recipes in Alana’s new book. The feedback was content from both sides, so I guess Alana Kysar isn’t that far away from fitting in her kitchen idol’s footsteps.

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures when I’m too busy chatting and laughing!

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

Alana Kysar’s Ahi Poke Bowl

Serves 2

1 pound fresh ahi steak (yellowfin tuna), sashimi grade, cut into cubed, bite size pieces
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more to taste
¼ cup thinly sliced sweet Maui onion (or sweet yellow onion)
¼ cup chopped green onions
½ teaspoon Hawaiian salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) or chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts
1 teaspoon toasted white or black sesame seeds
1 handful fresh chopped ogo/ limu/ edible sea moss (optional)
Shredded nori (dried seaweed) or furikake (dried seaweed seasoning), for the topping
Cooked white rice (optional)

Place the ahi in a bowl.

Start by adding one tablespoon of sesame oil, soy sauce, the sweet onions, green onions, Hawaiian salt, shichimi togarashi or chili flakes, toasted macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, and the ogo/ limu (if using). Using your hands or wooden spoons, gently toss together and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

Divide the rice between 2 bowls. Arrange the poke on top of the rice and sprinkle with shredded nori or furikake, serve immediately.

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Watch my interview with Alana in LA in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Alana!

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kysar

Langostini al Cartoccio cooked in seawater

Langostini al Cartoccio

I’m sure I spent more time in the water than on land in the past few weeks. When I’m in Malta, I turn into a fish, I practically live in and from the sea. Crystal blue water, secluded bays, and hidden caves under limestone arches are my very own little Mediterranean paradise. And once I’m out of the water, there’s often the freshest seafood on my plate. Simplicity rules Malta’s summer cuisine, a whole fish or pink crustaceans from the grill seasoned with a squeeze of lemon and some parsley from the fields, tender octopus in an aromatic stew – great quality ingredients don’t need much to shine.

Although I enjoy visiting the islands’ villages on Malta and Gozo a lot, walking down the quiet alleys and stopping for a cappuccino or ice cream at one of the old cafés, if there’s a chance to put my goggles on and snorkel, you can be sure to find me in the water within a split second. In the first week, I went to my beloved Fomm ir-Riħ to sadly find the gravel beach considerably narrowed by clay swept down from the steep hill behind it. The sea was rough, so we didn’t even bother walking down the hidden track along the cliff face. We went to Sliema’s city beach instead and I finished the day with my obligatory sun-downer – a glass of Ricard at the Exiles bar. Sitting on the warm rocks and smelling the salty air – after a dip in the sea of course – is one of the best ways to end a day in the Mediterranean.

Another trip took us to Marsaskala, a seaside village that I never really gave the attention it deserves. It’s a very Maltese place, not many tourists, old houses, bars, and palm trees lined up along the promenade where the young and old meet after sunset. I had a Ftira sandwich for dinner, but before we dove into village life we discovered a beautiful rocky beach north of the Xrobb l-Għaġin Temple. It was so peaceful, the endless sea framed by chalk-white cliffs softly sliding into the water. We were alone there, my Maltese family, my man and I snorkeled and Mama tried to catch our dinner – without success.

On one of our trips to Gozo, I discovered a recipe that I’d love to share with you today. Noel, the excellent chef at his open-air restaurant at the deep Mgarr ix-Xini bay – which is a bit tough to find – cooked the sweetest langostini al cartoccio in seawater. He doesn’t have to go far, a few steps from his place he finds the cleanest Gozitan sea, always at hand to cook seafood in his preferred method: wrapped in a package, al cartoccio, with a splash of seawater, on the grill. Don’t worry if you don’t happen to live at the sea, just use normal water mixed with the best sea salt you can find, that’s what I did in my Maltese Mama’s kitchen. We got Maltese langostini, which are the sweetest I know. Noel’s crustaceans were a little smaller than ours and tastier, however, my fish monger only had the larger size. You just have to add some lemon wedges to the package and cook it on the grill for a few minutes (or in the oven). They cooked to perfection, with a gentle touch of the salted water. I used Gozitan salt, which I find not only subtle in saltiness, but also tastier than any other I’ve tried. Choose a good one, it’s worth it when you follow simple cooking.

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

Seawater cooked Langostini al Cartoccio from the Grill

You can cook the langostini on the grill or in the oven.

Serves 2

extra wide aluminium foil
medium langostini, fresh and uncooked, 8-10
sea salt 1 tablespoon
water, warm, 300ml / 1 1/4 cups
olive oil
organic lemon, cut into wedges, 1

Start the grill or preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting).

Lay 2 pieces of aluminium foil on top of each other, large enough to wrap the langostini.

Stir the salt into the warm water and let it sit until the salt dissolves. Or, if you happen to live close to the clean sea, use the same amount of fresh seawater.

Lay the langostini in the middle of the aluminium foil and fold up the sides. Add the salted water / seawater, a generous splash of olive oil, and the lemon wedges. Wrap the package and seal the ends well.

Cook the langostini for about 3-5 minutes on the grill (I closed the lid of the grill), or in the oven, until they are just done.

Serve immediately with fresh bread and, if you like, a glass of chilled white wine.

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers from my cookbook & a short trip to Malta

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Old cities and beaches, seafood and wine! When Condé Nast Traveler asked me to take over their Instagram Stories last weekend and share some of my favourite spots in Malta, I immediately booked the flights. There’s no way I would miss a chance to visit my second home!

I’m in the Mediterranean for just a few days at the moment, but it’s enough time to visit my personal hot spots. An early morning boat ride starting in Sliema took me to Valletta to enjoy my first espresso of the day at the beautifully old fashioned Prego Caffe on the capital’s narrow South Street. It’s a beloved morning ritual of many locals, nibbling on buttery breakfast pastizzi filled with ricotta surrounded by the café’s original 60’s decor. A quick visit to the Baroque Saint Francis of Assisi Church (1607) and then I strolled through the streets – one of the most relaxing things I can imagine. If it had been a Sunday, I would have gone to St. John’s Co-Cathedral‘s early morning mass, which is held in Latin accompanied by the most heavenly sounding choir.

On the way to my next destination, Casa Rocca Piccola, I stopped by at the peaceful Lower Barakka Gardens. This place always manages to overwhelm me with its stunning views over The Grand Harbour and The Three Cities – and its almost meditative atmosphere. Frances de Piro was so kind to show me around the 400 year old private Valletta palace Casa Rocca Piccola, where she lives together with her husband, the 9th Marquis de Piro who’s a Knight of Malta, and their family. Many of the private rooms can be visited during guided tours and are a must see for everybody who loves art, history, and architecture.

My man joined me for lunch, which turned into a little feast at Scoglitti right at the sea at the Marsamxett Harbour facing Sliema. Pasta with Maltese prawns, swordfish from the grill, and a bottle of Meridiana Wine Estate‘s fruity white. Maltese Mqaret filled with dates for dessert and we were ready for a nap. Only the thought of an afternoon swim in Malta’s deep blue waters could stop us from having a siesta. We chose the secluded Delimara bay, limestone rocks and crystal-clear turquoise sea are the best conditions for a good snorkeling trip.

My perfect day in Malta wouldn’t be complete without having dinner at Legligin, my favourite restaurant in Valletta offering the most delicious Maltese tapas cooked by our friend Chris. And if it’s a Friday night, you can stroll over to Bridge Bar for their weekly open air Jazz concerts. Sitting on red cushions on the capital’s ancient stairs in front of the bar, sipping on a glass of pastis, and listening to good music make me ask myself why I should ever leave the Mediterranean (sorry Berlin).

As a part of the Instagram takeover, I also shared a recipe from my Eat In My Kitchen cookbook on Condé Nast Traveler‘s website. It’s a Maltese classic: stuffed bell peppers. Stuffed vegetables are a staple in every Maltese home. Tomato, zucchini, eggplant, pepper are filled with meat, seafood, or other vegetables and turned into the coziest treat to please a large Mediterranean family’s appetite. In my version, which you can find below, I go for green peppers cooked al dente – I don’t like them too soft and soggy – stuffed with white fish like cod, tiny zucchini cubes, tomatoes, and parsley refined with a shot of vermouth.

If you can’t travel at the moment, just cook a dish that reminds you of your favourite holiday spot, close your eyes, and you’ll almost be there.

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

 

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers with Cod, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

from Eat In My Kitchen, To cook, to bake, to eat, and to treat

Serves 4

4 to 5 medium green bell peppers
Olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons butter
510g / 18 ounces cod fillet (or any firm, white fish, such as monkfish or grouper), preferably 1 thick center piece
Fine sea salt
Ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
340g / 12 ounces zucchini, cut into very small cubes
60ml / ¼ cup dry white vermouth, like Noilly Prat, or dry white wine
1 medium tomato, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for garnish

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

Cut the tops off the peppers. Scrape out and discard the seeds and fibers, then rinse the peppers and set aside.

In a heavy pan, large enough to fit the fish, heat a generous splash of olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat. Sear the fish, turning once, for 1 to 3 minutes per side or until golden and flaky—mind that you don’t overcook it. Remove from the heat, break the fish into chunks, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Pour in a little more olive oil, add the zucchini, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté for about 4 minutes or until soft. Add the vermouth and cook, stirring and letting the alcohol burn off, for about 10 seconds. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the tomato and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To combine the filling, spread half the zucchini-tomato mixture on a large plate, lay the fish on top, and finish with the remaining vegetables. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Season the inside of the bell peppers with salt and pepper. Using a large spoon, generously stuff the peppers with the zucchini-cod mixture without pushing on the filling too much. If you have leftover filling, stuff the fifth bell pepper. Place the tops on the peppers and place them in a baking dish. Add a splash of water to cover the bottom of the dish and bake for about 25 minutes or until the bell peppers are al dente and the tops turn dark. Take the peppers out of the oven, sprinkle with more parsley, and serve warm.

Malta

 

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers