Dana Slatkin

Seared Fish with Simple Sauce

Seared Fish with Simple SauceIt was grueling work for a California girl fresh out of college. My arms welted with burns and fingertips cracked, I dragged myself down the cobble-stoned street at 5 o’clock every morning to learn the ways of a French 3-star chef. Whether I was peeling grapes for hours or fending off cheeky post-pubescent boys in the kitchen, working as the only female apprentice in some of France’s grandest restaurants was the hardest year of my life.

It was also one of the most instructive and worthwhile. I learned to make this exceptional dish, for example, from Michel Guérard himself. It embodies the kind of cooking he championed way ahead of his time — cuisine minceur, or light French cooking. All the flavors of Basque cooking are concentrated into the delicious sauce: the tomatoes, capers, wine and herbs cook down to a thick compote, which gets swirled with a few cubes of butter for a silky finish. I have kept the small piece of paper on which I scrawled the recipe for over 20 years. It takes me back to my long, fertile days of apprenticeship, reminding me of lavender fields and huge copper pots and zesty living. I guess sometimes even the most gratifying recipes, like life lessons, must be hard-earned.

For an elegant and healthful dinner that will have your guests raving, serve this lovely fish dish along with Mushroom Quinoa Risotto and Brussel Sprout Chips.

Photo credit: The New York Times

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