This must be a week I was destined to pay homage to some of my influences. This – as most in the culinary world know – is straight out of Daniel Boulud’s rote playbook and was a longtime staple at Le Cirque even long after Daniel had departed. There, the preparation was always done with either black sea bass or striped bass, and was served with braised leeks and beurre rouge. It was one of our biggest sellers and I would fathom that in my 5 plus years in the kitchen there I likely wrapped thousands of portions like this.
The uku (Hawaiian grey snapper) came into our door from Carl Galvan and was pristine as you can see from the below photo. Anytime I want a product to move – and I don’t think it will by itself (how many people in Chicago are familiar with Uku?) I have a couple of tricks. One is to give it a crust. I don’t know what it is about them, but I could probably sell a boulder with a gravel crust and sell 20 portions. Another is to pair it with a common favorite like shrimp, crab or lobster.
And when a fish is the density of the uku, Daniel’s crispy potato shell is another sure fired way to get it to move. It’s a lot of work, but worth the effort. Because it is challenging and essential that the fish is cut into a perfect rectangle, it takes me a very long time to pass the duties along to someone on the team. More so, this was the first time I pulled this out of the ol’ repertoire. There is a lot of detail into making this come out just right – to begin is to get the fish cooked perfectly at the same time the potatoes crisp golden brown. Next is that it has to be served immediately after being removed from the oven or the fish will begin to seep juice causing the potaotes to get soggy.
Overall, it sold well but was a far cry from the days at Le Cirque where we’d seemingly sell nothing but.