The second night on Poissonnier is always easier – we know the drill and understand what needs to be made prior to service. We make all of our sauces, prepare the celery root/apple puree, cook the caponata and clean the mushrooms and mustard greens. Lots of work goes into that single dish with many hours of preparation and care.
I’ve come to realize that I love making sauces, I think I may have a knack for it. The shallot sauce we prepare for the Bass is simple in theory but requires many steps to complete. Here’s the breakdown: I thinly slice (émincer) 8 large shallots and sweat them in butter until they are a gorgeous caramelized color. Vermouth is added and the mixture is reduced until it is almost entirely evaporated leaving about 4 T. of liquid, next equal parts of brown chicken and veal stock are added and placed on a low heat to simmer for 30 minutes. The mixture is allowed to cool slightly before puréeing and then run through a fine chinois and placed back on the stove to reduce a little more. When the desired consistency is achieved I season with salt, pepper and hickory smoke powder. The resulting sauce has a depth of flavor and mild smokiness that pairs beautifully with the other components on the dish.
I know I’ve succeeded when two things occur – the sauce has a well-rounded taste that is properly seasoned and when ladled onto the plate it pools delicately around the celery root and fish and can hold its own. As orders come in and a number of plates are fired I set up a little assembly line of burning hot plates, dabbed with a quenelle of celery root puree, I ask my cooking partner to “sauce me” with smoky shallot goodness so I can tend to the fish and sauté the mustard greens at the same time. There’s nothing like a classic French sauce done right it simply satisfies the soul.