I write about the pleasures of cooking, not about tragedy. Yet, I turned my visit to the still-smoldering ruins of the 9-11 attack into a food story. Barely two weeks had passed as I made my way to the interview with David Waltuck, chef-owner of the acclaimed Chanterelle Restaurant. Chanterelle was seven blocks from Ground Zero, one block from where blue barricades stood guarded by teams of New York City police.
I wanted to talk about Waltuck’s cookbook, “Staff Meals from Chanterelle.” The book is the kind of recipe-rich tome that would end up in my permanent cookbook collection. But due to the events prior to our meeting, we had much more to talk about than just cooking.
Seated at a long table with servers and cooks, we talked about loss and survival at the afternoon’s staff dinner. They lost myriad friends and loyal guests on 9-11, and in hushed tones, they talked about them and their city.
Our staff meal entrée was Red Snapper with Ginger-Green Onion Sauce, a scrumptious dish to nourish body and soul. Accompanied with coconut rice, it’s a dish that is perfect for gatherings, a concoction I’ve prepared many, many times over the years.
I often make the dish with broiled salmon instead of red snapper fillets. Broiling a whole side of filleted salmon is much easier than dredging and frying smaller fillets. The sauce, oh the sauce, is scrumptious, a blend of sweet-sour-spicy Asian flavors dotted with crisp strips of red bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and onions.
I like to accompany it with coconut rice that is easy-peasy to prepare in a rice cooker (it can be cooked on top of the stove if a rice cooker isn’t available).
When this pandemic is over, I plan to make the fish and the rice, then invite the neighborhood. I’ll propose a toast to the now-shuttered Chanterelle Restaurant and the staff that welcomed me so graciously. And a secondary toast to this irresistible dish.
Salmon with Chanterelle’s Ginger-Green Onion Sauce
Yield: 8 servings
8 dried shiitake mushrooms; see cook’s notes
2 cups chicken stock OR low-sodium canned chicken broth
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar OR cider vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce; see cook’s notes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce; see cook’s notes
1 tablespoon cornstarch2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, cut into thin strips
3 green onions, white and green parts, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch lengths
One side of salmon, boned, skin on, or skinned off about 3 1/2 pounds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Seasoned salt to taste, Spike Original is a favorite
- Place shiitake mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with very hot water. Soak 30 minutes. Lift mushrooms from soaking liquid, leaving grit behind. Trim away any stems and slice caps. Strain soaking liquid through a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth and use as needed in Step 3.
- Combine chicken broth, shiitakes, sugar, vinegar, oyster sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, and fish sauce in a small, nonreactive saucepan and bring to boil on high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until flavors have blended about 20 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch and water to blend. When smooth, whisk into the sauce, whisking constantly until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Add pepper flakes and ginger; simmer 1 minute more. Add onion, bell peppers, and green onions; cook until heated through, 1-2 minutes (vegetables should still be crisp). Remove from heat and taste; adjust seasoning as needed. If the sauce is too thick, thin with strained soaking liquid from mushrooms. Keep warm while you prepare fish.
- Adjust oven rack to about 6- to 8-inches below broiler element. Preheat broiler. Place salmon on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil; use fingertips to spread oil over the top of salmon. Season with seasoned salt to taste. Broil salmon for 9 minutes. It should be nicely caramelized. Move to the lower rack and turn off the oven. Fish will finish cooking using the residual heat. Check after 6 to 8 minutes; use a fork to pull flesh apart in the thickest part of fish – if should be mostly opaque.
5, Transfer salmon to platter. Spoon sauce over top and serve.
Source: “Staff Meals from Chanterelle” by David Waltuck and Melicia Phillips (Workman, $29.95)
Yield: 6-8 servings (about 7 cups)
2 cups jasmine rice or other long-grain rice
1 (13- or 14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
3 1/2 cups water
Cook’s notes: If you own a rice cooker, you can add all the ingredients to the rice cooker and turn it on. Easy.
- Combine rice, coconut milk, and water in a medium-large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to boil on high heat. Then reduce heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer, without removing the cover, until all liquid is absorbed about 20 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, 20 minutes before fluffing and serving.
Source: “Staff Meals from Chanterelle”