I not only love the song about the fabulous Les Poissons from all-time favorite Disney movie The Little Mermaid, I also love being Poissonnier on the line at L’Ecole, the student-run restaurant open to the public downstairs at The International Culinary Center. I’ve spent 4 days on the station, preparing a delicious arctic char served with a yogurt dill sauce, carrot reduction sauce, dressed cucumbers and fresh dill along with a fettucine served with chorizo and mussels.
This station brings a lot to the table – in more ways than one. Each dish requires specific skills be applied to achieve a perfect end-result. The arctic char delights the senses with the double sauce plate – requiring a sharp palette to season the yogurt and carrot sauces appropriately. Making different sauces has been one of the highlights of attending culinary school – I have a good knowledge and appreciation of the importance of stocks, reductions, seasoning, and consistency. Better yet, I can save a sauce that’s gotten too thick, isn’t thick enough or has been over or under seasoned. The char itself is simple in preparation: heat some oil in a pan, sear both sides, bang it into the oven while plating the sauce and cucumbers, then top the dish with the filet itself. It’s gorgeous, healthy, and a perfect dish for spring.
The mussels fettucine is also a great one, a pasta dish I would order in any restaurant as my appetite for shellfish has increased significantly in the past year or so. I never was a fan of mussels, clams, oysters and the like growing up but as a young adult my palette has shifted considerably, making shellfish completely craveable. This dish requires more prep than the char – before service I steam the mussels in the traditional way (sweat garlic and shallots, add white wine, add mussels, add herbs and let ’em go), remove the lip and beard and reserve the mussel broth after straining through a cheese cloth and chinois. The fat from the chorizo is rendered in a separate pan, allowing the red oil to come out – also reserved for service.
I’ve been making pasta from scratch daily as well – a saffron variety with thick, delicious noodles. They come out quite yellow due to the water that soaks the threads. Cooked up in super salty water, they’re al dente in about 2.5 minutes, added to a hot pan full of mussels, chorizo, broth, and oil, topped with lemon compound butter and served with parsley and 1 mussel in the shell. It’s a tasty dish that appeals to the masses.
Today was my last day as Poissonnier, but tomorrow looks to be promising as I’m moving on to Saucier – the most prestigious station in the kitchen. More to come then!
(image from Disney’s The Little Mermaid)