This month I'm thinking about elegant, refined cuisines -- in particular French and Japanese. As popularized in America by Julia Child, French cuisine utilizes techniques that have become part the knowledgeable cook's vocabulary such as sauteing, blanching, poaching and many more. The techniques are precise, with attention to detail, presentation, quality of ingredients, and of course, flavor.
Japanese cuisine is based on rice, vegetables and protein -- usually fish. If you've ever eaten sushi, you've experienced the advanced techniques used to create beautifully designed dishes using mostly raw fish and rice. For cooked foods, Japanese cuisine techniques include grilling, simmering, steaming, deep-frying and pickling.
Classic French and Japanese cuisines are sophisticated compared to more rustic or country styles such as Southern American, Cajun, or food from the Italian Tuscany region. These cuisines are also delicious and beautiful, but not as precise about presentation as classic French and Japanese cuisines. Ingredients are simpler and often less costly. It's like comparing New York and Paris to Provence or the American South. Both wonderful, but distinct.
I recently used the classic technique to make French butter sauce (beurre blanc) and combined it with Japanese yuzu (a citrus juice like lemon) to create a butter sauce that can be used on a Japanese-seasoned fish. It uses a Japanese blend of spices called seven spice (you can buy it, but it's hard to find) or make your own.
Use the yuzu (or citrus) butter sauce recipe below to create a beautiful Japanese-French inspired fish dish. Serve with rice and green veg
etable. Happy cooking!
Japanese Citrus Butter Sauce
2 shallots, finely diced
Dry white wine, enough to cover shallots
1 pound COLD unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Yuzu or any citrus juice and rind (the rind is optional)
Place shallots in a saucepan with enough white wine to cover. Simmer slowly, reducing the liquid until almost all has evaporated. Slowly add cold butter to the shallot mixture until fully melted, stirring, emulsifying the butter. Since the butter is very cold when incorporated into the shallot wine mixture, the sauce will be thick, not like the drawn butter you'd make for lobster. This is only possible with a very low flame. It takes time, so be patient. Add butter little by little. Add salt and yuzu or other citrus to taste at the end of the cooking process. You can use the sauce without the citrus for a French-style butter sauce (beurre blanc).
Japanese Seven Spice
Combine red pepper flakes, black and white sesame seeds, nori (Japanese seaweed), Szechwan peppercorns, dried citrus peel (usually orange) and poppy seeds.
This recipe will work with any type of fish filet - salmon, grouper, mahi mahi, tilapa and cod are good examples. Press the seven spice blend into the fish filet, creating a Japanese-style blackening preparation. Apply the spice to the bone side for an attractive presentation of the filet. Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil and heat a saute pan until quite hot. Pan roast the fish, spice side down, until it forms a golden crust. This technique sears the spices to the fish like a crust. Finish in a preheated 350-degree oven for 5-7 minutes. Top with citrus butter sauce and serve.
Chef Jim Copening, of Arts & Eats, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The restaurant is at 1114 12th St. W., Bradenton, in the Village of the Arts. Information: 941-201-6647 or artsandeatsfl.com.