Gilding the Lily
My mother had many saying that have stuck with me all these years. Gilding the lily was one she used when something was needlessly overdone in an attempt to make it more pleasing. This past May I had the pleasure to dine at the world famous Herb Farm in Woodenville, Washington. I had heard for years how this exquisite restaurant would ply it’s customers with the freshest produce and other bounty from the Northwest.
It is a very expensive restaurant to visit and not easy to get in due to its popularity. I was thrilled to acquire reservations in late May during salmon season. My favorite salmon was on the menu and it was sure to be great. The only problem is the chef decided the lily needed to be gilded. Here was the rich and fatty king salmon from the Copper River near Cordova, Alaska butchered beyond belief with all manner of trendy restaurant excess. It was cooked in a sous vide method and served mushy and over seasoned ruining an incredible salmon entree.
The red salmon fared little better being over prepped with all manner of things a chef could do to impress the customers. If only he would have respected the fish for what it is, already near perfect, he might have thought to use the lemon thyme, from their herb garden, and high-end local butter on the salmon. At least the smoked salmon started on a skewer was done well. The rest of the meal was quite good and the wines excellent and rare. For $700 the two of us expected more though.
It’s hard to blame the chef being in the day and age of star chefs and dozens of cooking shows he was probably pressured to keep up with false notion that everything must have three to four items in the description of the meal to impress the customer. Here is what an item on the menu might look like:
Bogus Ranch lamb chops, grilled over young North West alder, in a sauce of Mt Rainier foraged blackberries scented with Columbia Valley Syrah.
Everything on the menu has to highlight two to three items of not-so-ordinary ingredients to be worthy it seems, at least in the high-end fine-dining restaurants.
Mix the tomatoes in gently.
What ever happened to grilled lamb chops with chef’s special seasoning blend? Or baked Alaska king salmon with fresh herb butter? Have we forgotten that when you start with quality ingredients they need little else to be great? I hope not. I’ll keep my eyes open to restaurants that don’t gild the lilly and still serve great food from the source. Meanwhile I’ll still cook up simple foods sourced from nearby farms, or my own garden and share the recipes free of charge to my readers.
This recipe for halibut ceviche takes a fish that is known for its versatility and flavor. Whether I’m baking, sautéing, grilling or stir-frying halibut it is one of my favorite gifts from the sea. This recipe lets the pure taste of the halibut come through while delighting the taste buds with jalapeno, onion, lime, cilantro and a hint of garlic. It makes an exceptional starter served with tortilla chips and avocado slices. Pair it with a crisp Pinot Gris or Chablis and you have a winner.
1 pound halibut filet
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup chopped or sliced red onion
1-2 fresh jalapeños sliced thin
1 small clove of garlic minced
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1 -1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Cut halibut in pieces 1 1/2 inch long by 3/8 inch thick and however high that particular filet is.
Put lime juice, jalapeños, olive oil and garlic in a medium sized mixing bowl and mix briefly.
Add halibut, onion and cilantro and mix.
Add tomatoes and salt mixing gently to not break up the tomatoes.
Store in fridge covered for 24-36 hours mixing three times about every 8-12 hours.
Serve with tortilla chips and sliced avocado garnished with fresh cilantro.