Great food happens when friends cook together, and when those friends have interesting backgrounds with influences from multiple cultures, especially great food happens. Such is the case with Claudia Shaw-d’Auriol and Domenica Yang. Both are from Hong Kong and have traveled and lived in cities in the west. In their new book, Delicious, which I received to review, the two present some of their favorite dishes for first courses, mains, and desserts. The chapters are clearly organized by firsts, seconds, and thirds, and the cuisine spans the globe from east to west. That being said, this is not complicated or fussy, fusion food. In fact, this is dinner party food that will both please and impress without causing the cook undue stress. Let me give you some examples of possible menus you could build from the book: start with herbed pancakes with mascarpone and smoked salmon, followed by stuffed quail with wild rice, with a dessert of fried apples with toffee sauce, or start with mini shrimp toast, followed by caramelized pork belly, with a dessert of fruit tempura with passionfruit ice cream. As I was choosing the first item to try from the book, the Chinese turnip cakes caught my eye as did the duck breast with soba, and taglierini with caramelized scallops and rosemary beurre blanc, but in the end, I decided on the fish in lemongrass cream.
In the book, this dish is called sea bass in lemongrass cream, but I found fresh and lovely-looking turbot at the fish counter at Whole Foods and went with that. Turbot is a white-fleshed fish with a high oil content ensuring great flavor and big flakes when cooked. To begin the dish, lemongrass was steeped in fish stock. I was thrilled to use some lemongrass from my garden before the cold weather wipes it out for the season. The fish stock with lemongrass was combined with a cup of sake and simmered until reduced by half. Then, cream was added and allowed to simmer to warm through. Before serving, the lemongrass was strained from the sauce. The fish was simply seasoned with salt and pepper, seared on top of the stove for a few minutes per side, and then finished in a hot oven for an additional four minutes or so. To serve, I placed the fish fillets on top of some sauteed spinach, poured the sauce over top, and garnished with chopped red chiles and parsley.
I’ll come clean and admit that I really don’t know one sake from another and should take the time to gain a better appreciation of it, but I did really enjoy its flavor in the cream sauce. The simmering mellowed the sake’s alcoholic edge, and the lemongrass added citrusy, bright flavor. Of course, cream never hurts a sauce, and the mixture was as nice with the fish as it was with the spinach. I love it when I can pull together an interesting and delicious meal so easily, and this book will be a great source for more of that.