Inspiration from the Garden and the Sea

Meet the fish at PacificO.

I got inspired to prepare a little fine dining. I just got back from a vacation in Maui and the last meal we had was at Pacific’O. This is one of the best restaurants on the island featuring local ingredients and local seafood. I had a dish of opakapaka, which is a local pink snapper, paired with diver sea scallops. It was served with mashed potatoes and wilted local greens. I must say that it was just perfect. We spent much of our vacation in timeshare condos and one of the things I was looking forward to was preparing a few meals of local fish and produce, as dining out is rather expensive. We found a farmers market just down the street from the condo as well as a fish market that offered fresh caught opakapaka. In the Condo I didn’t have my pantry arsenal around me and had to keep it simple. I simply pan roasted the fish in olive oil and butter, salt and pepper and finished it with a squeeze of lime juice. The greens were simply prepared as well — wilted with a little bit of garlic. It is amazing how good simply prepared fresh food can be.

The other part of my inspiration was that the winter greens we had put in the ground prior to leaving for Hawaii had come up and Kim had a pile of fine baby rainbow chard sitting in the colander. I am a big fan of Top Chef and I remember that Tom Coliccio had reprimanded one chef for not using the stems of the chard while another chef had scored big points for only using the stems. With the fabulous meal from Pacific O still reverberating in my brain I went to our local upscale supermarket to see what turned me on. Here is what I came up with:

Wild Sockeye Salmon with Meyer Lemon Butter Sauce and Seared Scallops and Chard Chutney.

This dish is the equal of any meal we had on Maui and easily would set you back $45.00 a plate in the fine dining establishments we visited. It is neither complicated nor beyond the skill of most home cooks and I only used 2 pans to make it. Here is the way I did it.
1. Chard Chutney
Remove the stems from ½ lb of baby chard and cut into a fine dice. Mince 1 large shallot and sauté until soft. Add the zest of 1 meyer lemon and 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar. I used 1 tbsp of my home made pineapple jalapeno ginger preserve but you can use 1 tsp minced ginger, 1 serrrano pepper and a 2 tbsp of pineapple juice. Reduce until the liquid forms a glaze and reserve.
2. Celery Root Mash
This is easy as pie and one of the things where the microwave actually works better than any other method. Peel one large celery root and one medium Yukon gold potato. Cut into 1 inch dice and put in a covered microwave safe dish and cook for approx 10 minutes on high, stirring after 5 minutes to ensure even cooking. Drain any liquid that remains in the bottom and add 1 tbsp butter and ¼ cup of condensed milk. I use a hand blender or you can put it into the food processor and process until it is smooth. Season with salt, white pepper and a grating of fresh nutmeg.
3. Seared Scallops
In a non stick pan put 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter. Salt and pepper your scallops and cook on medium high until each side is golden brown and has a nice crust.
4. Wild Sockeye Salmon with Meyer Lemon Butter Sauce
Liberally salt two 6 oz portions of salmon with salt, pepper and dill on the non-skin side. Place in a very hot non stick pan skin side down for 3 minutes and flip. The skin should be loose at this point so peel it off and set it aside for further goodness. Sprinkle salt, pepper and dill on the side you removed the skin from and after 3 or 4 minutes flip it back over and give it 2 minutes on the side you removed the skin from. I like good salmon like this medium rare. When you remove the salmon from the pan turn the heat down to medium and put the skin back in and cook it until it is crispy like a cracker.
This makes a yummy garnish. When the skin is removed, put 2 tbsp butter in the pan with 2 tbsp of finely minced shallots. When the shallots are translucent, squeeze the juice from 1 meyer lemon into the pan and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Pour the sauce over your salmon and wilt your greens.
5. Wilted greens
Throw 1 clove of minced garlic in the pan that you cooked the salmon in and just as it starts to brown, throw in the leaves from the chard and toss. Cover immediately and turn down the heat to med-low for 2 or 3 minutes, just until the greens are wilted and still bright green.
Plating the dish.

If you time it right, the scallops and salmon will be done at the same time. Pile some of your chutney and place the scallops on top. Mound some of the celery root mash and put the salmon on top with the lemon sauce on top of the salmon. Put your greens in the middle and top your salmon with the crispy skin. Imagine yourself sitting in a fine dining establishment with a snooty waiter filling your wine glass just a bit too often in order to run up your wine bill. Then dig into a meal that should have cost you about $30 in groceries if you get the good stuff and a little bit of elbow grease.

Bone Appetite.

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