Eric Ripert vividly remembers the first time he ate at Le Bernardin, the legendary Michelin three-star restaurant in New York, more than three decades ago. Gilbert Le Coze, the chef and co-owner, put before him a salmon fillet gently simmered in a creamy tomato sauce infused with mint. “It was the first time I had ever experienced fish that was served to me almost raw, yet was perfectly cooked by the time it was on my fork,” he recounts in his newest cookbook, “Seafood Simple” (Random House, $35).
Trained as a chef in his native France, Ripert came to the U.S. in 1989 and worked in several acclaimed restaurants before Le Coze hired him and became his mentor. In 1994, Le Coze died unexpectedly of a heart attack and Ripert took over Le Bernardin’s kitchen, which he still helms. Now an international media star, Ripert credits Le Coze for passing on to him the then-revolutionary cooking style he practices today: “minimal ingredients and steps, maximum impact in terms of flavor and presentation.”
That description applies to the recipes within “Seafood Simple,” where Ripert distills his decades of experience in one of the world’s most famous seafood-focused restaurants to demystify the process for the rest of us.
Simple isn’t necessarily synonymous with easy, especially when it comes to seafood. Due to its sensitivity to temperature and time, freshness is tantamount, as is focus and technique. Ripert helps us navigate those obstacles in chapters organized around nine essential techniques — raw, steamed, poached, fried, baked, sauteed, broiled, grilled and preserved — with step-by-step photos throughout.
Recipes range from everyday fare (Fish Tacos, Shrimp Boil) to dinner party splurges (Tuna Carpaccio with Ginger-Lime Mayonnaise, Lobster Thermidor). The Sea Bass with Charred Lemon Vinaigrette I made came out perfectly cooked using my broiler, and tested for doneness as directed using a metal skewer and my wrist.
With side dishes, the whole meal was ready in less than hour with minimal labor and clean-up. So simple. Yet so sublime.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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