In celebration of Jody Adams’ decisive first and second round victories in Bravo Network’s latest “Top Chef Masters” competition, I thought we’d cook a dish today from her terrific cookbook (co-authored by her husband, Ken Rivard), In the Hands of A Chef: Cooking with Jody Adams of Rialto Restaurant. This dish is a bit of a departure from Jody’s typically mediterranean offerings, but as a nod to asian-fusion style cooking in the style of a “bourride” (a Provencal fish stew), it is a real winner. I’ve taken a few liberties with the dish only to use up a few ingredients I had in my fridge that I thought would work well here, but the soul of this light and delicious dish is all Jody.
Although I have dined at her wonderful restaurant, Rialto, for years, I first met Jody while I was a culinary student at Boston University back in 2002. My classmates and I worked with her for a day, helping her to prep for a demonstration cooking class and cookbook launching event that she was holding at BU that evening. In the kitchen, Jody was a great teacher, patient, communicative, and warm. She generously shared stories of the genesis of the dishes we were preparing, and made sure to work her way around the kitchen to spend time with each of us, interested in hearing OUR stories, and helping us with our prep.
The night was a resounding success. Jody, already quite the celebrity chef in the Boston area, drew a sold-out crowd and wowed the attendees with her thoughtful, honest, and delicious takes on mediterranean cuisine. Everyone, including me, left with a copy of her new cookbook, and every time I use mine, I can’t help but glance at the inscription she wrote in it which reads; “To Steve – What awesome onions and fabulous parsley. Thank you for your great food. All the best – Jody”
Yeah, you read that right…..parsley and onions.
Hey look….everyone has to start somewhere, and now you know where I started, with more parsley and onions than I care to recall. You should have seen me at the end of that class, eyes red and stinging from mincing onions all day, and fingers dyed green from all the parsley I had washed, dried, stemmed, and chopped, I was a sight only a mother could love. Such are the realities of a baby cook working in a professional kitchen, hours upon hours of tedious, repetitive ingredient prep, earning your stripes and proving your mettle before your chef lets you anywhere near the fire.
Did I complain for even a second about my burning eyes and frog-green fingers? Heck no….I was working with THE Jody Adams, and couldn’t have been happier!
I last saw Jody this past Wednesday night, as she had invited fans to join her at the lounge at Rialto to watch the latest installment of “Top Chef Masters”. The place was packed, full of well-wishers enjoying some delicious nibbles and cocktails, and cheering her on through another successful round of the competition. As the evening was winding down, I asked her if she would ever enter into a “Top Chef” type of competition again. She thought for a moment, recalling the insane schedule, the intensity of the competition, the stress of performing for an international audience of millions (not to mention a panel of very critical judges), and in the end, struggled to answer the question. I guess only time will tell…..stay tuned.
I encourage you all to tune into Bravo at 10:00 PM on Wednesdays to cheer Jody along as she strives to knock-off the remaining chefs that stand between her and world, culinary domination. I would also ask you to check out the sites of two charities that Jody tirelessly supports through her work as a chef and restauranteur. The first, Partners in Health, is the organization that she is “competing” for in “Top Chef Masters”. Through her first two victorious rounds on the show she has already won / raised $17,000 for this charity, not too shabby, huh? Another group close to her heart, is one that my wife and I also support, and one that I have just started to work with as a volunteer chef instructor at their “Operation Front Line” classes, and that is Share Our Strength. Both of these organizations take on the hard work of supplying quality healthcare and much needed nutritional support to the world’s less fortunate. Please give them a look-see, and if you can, give them a little love as well. Thanks!
OK….thank you for indulging my little trip down memory lane, let’s take a look at her fabulous recipe.
I altered this dish in only two ways when we made it the other night. First, I couldn’t get my hands on any celery root, but did have some fingerling potatoes in my fridge, so I boiled them, sliced them and tossed them with a little EVOO and salt, then laid them in the bottom of each serving bowl as a bed for the halibut. Second, in place of the sugar snap peas, I used some haricot verts which I had on hand. These I blanched, refreshed, chopped, and added to the braising broth at the last minute with the herbs and butter. Aside from these two changes, we cooked it up true to the recipe and can’t recommend it enough. It is light and healthy, but also a delicious, and very aromatic dish that really sings. Do give it a try.
Hey….it’s halibut season….what are you waiting for?
Cheers – S
Halibut Braised in Ginger-Lemongrass Broth with Cilantro, Basil and Mint
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, sliced 1/4" thick
- 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 stalks fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups fish stock, or 2 cups low sodium store bought chicken stock, and 2 cups bottled clam juice
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Four 6 ounce halibut filets, skin removed
- 12 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
- 1/4 pound celery root, peeled and cut into 1/16" matchsticks
- 1 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/16&qu
- ot; matchsticks
- 4 large scallions, cut into 2" lengths
- 1 cup sugar snap peas, strings removed
- 20 fresh cilantro leaves
- 20 fresh mint leaves
- 20 fresh basil leaves
- Four 1/4" thick lemon slices, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons butter
- For the broth, heat the oil in a medium sized pot over medium-high heat, and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Season with salt and pepper and cook until just starting to take on some color, 4-5 minutes. Add the lemongrass, red pepper flakes, fennel, coriander, bay, white wine and stock. bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes, skimming the surface regularly for scum and impurities. Strain and reserve.
- To sear and partially cook the halibut, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Season each filet on both sides with salt and pepper, and sear each side for about 3 minutes, just until the crust is lightly golden. The fish WILL NOT be cooked through at this point. Remove to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
- Add another 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan, and when it is hot, add the sliced shiitakes and cook until they start to release their juices. Add the celery root, ginger and scallions and cook for about 5 minutes, until the celery root is tender. Season with salt and pepper, then add the snap peas, broth and the fish back to the pan. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes until the halibut is just cooked through. When done, the fish will still be moist and slightly translucent at its center. Remove the fish to a plate, tent with foil, and add the herbs, lemon slices and butter to the broth and veggies, stir to melt the butter.
- Divide the filets among 4 serving bowls, and pour the broth and veggies over each, top with a lemon wedge and serve immediately.