Friday, February 20, 2015

Fish and Clams

James and I have been rushing in opposite directions the last couple weeks barely touching down at home.
We finally sat down to dinner, with a visiting friend. No time for elaborate recipes but I wanted a dish that felt special (and impressed a guest) -- and fell into the very strict guideline of my latest "I've got to lose some weight" diet. UGH.
Where I landed was simple savory dish of seasonal halibut with leeks, mushrooms and clams. One pot, poaching broth, tons of flavor.
To start I sautéed thinly sliced leeks (2), beautiful local king oyster mushrooms, and garlic in a bit of olive oil. When the vegetables were soft -- about 7 minutes -- I splashed in a bit of wine. I only had red open which worked just fine with the halibut but normally I would have  used white. I let the wine evaporate away and added in 3 cups of chicken broth. I cheated a bit and added about 1TB of butter for some extra flavor. When the liquid was boiling I nestled my fish in the north, covered the pan and let the mixture steam over low heat for two minutes. The fish was particularly thick so it needed a little head start over the clams. After two minutes I added in the scrubbed Manilla clams (about 2 dozen) covered the pot and continued to cook over low heat fro 7 minutes until the clams had all opened and the fish was cooked through. I brought the broth dish, sprinkled with parsley, to the table along with steamed jasmine rice -- for those still allowed to eat carbs -- and a fresh green salad.
James loves clams but he is not a big fish eater. I was blown away by his reaction to this fish dinner. He loved it, as did our guest. This may be my new go to diet friendly dinner for guests. I'm already plotting versions with snapper and shrimp, delicate tomato sauces and harissa spiked broth.

Monday, February 2, 2015


For quite some time I was determined to boycott Republique. The restaurant occupies the space that housed Campanile for more than 20 years.
Mark Peel's Campanile was an innovator and powerful influence on the generations of chef's and restaurants to follow. Today we nearly take for granted chef interpreted versions of simple dishes bolstered with first rate ingredients, farm to table vegetables and chef/farmer relationships that produce high quality meat for fine dining tables. Campanile was warm, delicious and truly American. A chef's restaurant before the era of restauranteurs. I loved it and I miss it.
But now there is Republique with Walter Manzke behind the stove. Manzke is no stranger to critic's praise -- having re-opened Bastide and later wowing the press at Church and State. Along the way Manzke found himself on multiple best restaurant lists. Like their predecessors at Campanile Walter Manzke handles the savory and his wife Margarita runs the "bread program," at breakfast time filling the former La Brea bakery space with a selection of pastries, cakes, breads and rolls too sumptuous to ignore. It takes nerve to charge an extra $5 for French butter but Margarita Manzke's breads are worth the splurge. We are living in a golden age of American baking, no doubt in part ushered in by Mark Peel's original partner and former wife Nancy Silverton (now of LA's Mozza).
Perennially crowded, Republique serves three meals a day to grateful LA crowds. Nearly two years after opening dinner reservations seem nearly impossible. So my friend and I wandered in -- well really waited in line to order breakfast and find a spot in Charlie Chaplain's former office.
I can't find fault with the food. The creative menu is executed near flawlessly. Our kimchi fried rice nodded to the popular Korean dish with delicious bites of tender, savory short ribs. Mushroom toast -- hardly an appealing description, paired soft scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms and peppery arugula. The bread is crusty and chewy. A bacon date "pop-tart" though light on the bacon was sweet and savory at once and a tasty foil to lattes I wish were bigger.
I suppose there is room in my heart for Republique. But I can't help but hope -- looking up at the portrait of bad boy chef Marco Pierre White that holds court over the bistro's bar -- that the Manzkes understand the debt they owe to chef's like Mark Peel (and Nancy Silverton) and how their innovation made today's Republique possible.