A CHEF, A DISH: COD COOKED IN COCO MILK, GRAPEFRUIT... BY ÉRIC FRÉCHON



Cod, mashed sweet potato, grapefruit, coconut milk sauce

an improbable, and amazing, association of savors…


Three stars

Let’s be honest with you. I was looking for an original way to prepare those nice cod fillets and when I first saw this recipe, I was not convinced at all. As you might not be right now. For sure, this is original, but combining cod, potatoes, grapefruit and coconut, well, well, well! I was about to pass, seriously! Why I didn’t overlook it? This recipe was proposed by  a “grand chef”, Éric Fréchon, the chef of Epicure – Le Bristol in Paris. L’Epicure is a three Michelin star restaurant located in a beautiful palace, Le Bristol, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, nearby the Palais de l’Élysée (Macron’s “white house” so to say) in Paris. There are around 4,100 1,2 and 3-Michelin star restaurants in the world, but only 141 3-star, with for instance 32 in Japan (#1), 28 in France (#2) and 14 in the US (#4, I don’t know if this includes the very recent promotion with Dominique Crenn for instance). So, just being a 3-star is obviously very meaningful.

MOF

But not only is Éric Fréchon a 3-star chef, but he is also a MOF. A MOF??? What does it mean? MOF means Meilleur Ouvrier de France, i.e. Best Craftman of France. This is an official distinction specific to France, not only reserved to cooking professions, but to other F&B professions (pastry making, butchery, sommelier…) and to a variety of other craftmanship from woodworking to hair styling. This is by itself a caste, in the noble meaning of the terms, and a very appreciated recognition by a profession. You probably wonder why some French chefs wear a jacket with a tricolor (blue, white, red) collar. This means that they are MOF. So, having three Michelin stars and a MOF collar is really the ultimate recognition among the French chefs. The regretted Paul Bocuse and Joël Robuchon were 3-star/MOF chefs. Among the contemporary chefs, Régis Marcon, Gilles Goujon… and Éric Fréchon are part of this very selective club (plus, it seems that having a name finishing by “on” can help!).

Ingredients (2 servings)

So, to make a (very) long story short and as you have guessed, I decided to try this recipe and this association of savors. I had cod (2 fillets), of course, I had grapefruit (half a grapefruit) and a fresh coconut (around 4 oz), I had a mussels broth (1 dl) and I decided to replace the potatoes in the initial recipe (still not 100% sure of the combination with potatoes) by (two) sweet potatoes, and the fresh cilantro and dill leaves (which I didn’t have) by ginger, Timut pepper (it goes well with grapefruit) and curry powder (a flawless match with coconut and mussels).

Recipe

  • First, I cooked two whole sweet potatoes, with their skin, in boiling water. In hindsight, this is probably the only significant thing to modify in the recipe (I replicated the potatoes cooking mode), i.e. baking them instead of boiling them, in order to obtain a firmer texture. When cooked, I peeled them, roughly mashed them with a fork and enriched them with a generous dose of butter (2+ ounces), before reserving them above a bain-marie.
  • I salted the cod fillet faces and let it rest in the fridge to firm them up.
  • For the sauce, I first made coconut milk: get some chunks of fresh coconut (around 4 oz) and soaked them in very hot water (around 1 dl) for 5 minutes, added some Timut pepper corns and curry, before processing the whole with a very high-speed blender. After some time to rest, I strained this coconut mix, and keep on one side the milk and on the other side the pulp. I sautéed two chopped garlic cloves and a chopped ginger segment in coconut butter, added a mussels broth (around 1 dl) and let it gently reduced. When reduced by about 50%, I strained this sauce, completed it by the coconut milk (around 1 dl) and let reduce again by 50%, adding curry turmeric powder and stirring up regularly till obtaining a creamy texture sauce, an a very, very flavorful one… I had to resist not drinking it all!!!
  • I peeled half a pink grapefruit so that to make supremes (i.e. the wedges without the skin) and chopped in small dices that I added to the mash sweet potatoes (adding the juice to the sauce).
  • I mixed the strained coconut pulp with grated fresh pulp and a tsp. of curry , flattened this mixture and divided it two 2/3 mm thick rectangles of a surface equivalent to the top of each fillet. After rinsing the cold fillets under cold water to eliminate the salt and patting them dry, I placed this coconut crust on each fillet and spread some coconut dry flakes on top of it. After having placed a dish with some coconut butter in the 350F preheating oven, I placed those fillets in the dish for 8 minutes at 350F, with some coconut chips used for the decoration (see pix), plus two more minutes under the broil to color the flakes topping the fish.
  • Ready to be served, the cod placed on the grapefruit mashed potato, framed by the grilled coconut chips and served with the sauce whisked at the last minute, some remaining grapefruit segments and chopped chives (picked up under the snow!) spread around with some grated lime and squeezed lime juice to bring some acidity…

The discovery:

The association of, and the contrast between, the potato sweetness and the grapefruit juiciness/bitterness. To do again for sure, with baked sweet potatoes, or like the 3-star/MOF chef, with “normal” potatoes.

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