We San Diegans love our seafood. If we have a regional food, for better or worse, it's fish tacos. But the world of seafood is complex and many home cooks are nervous about preparing it, fearing they'll overcook pricey fish or that for all their work, it just won't taste right.
To help home cooks get over their fear, chefs Bernard Guillas and Ron Oliver of The Marine Room have just published their second book, Two Chefs, One Catch: A Culinary Exploration of Seafood (Lyons Press, $35). The book, beautifully photographed by Marshall Williams, contains about 120 recipes, about 80 percent of which were created specifically for the book. In fact, you probably won't find any of these dishes on The Marine Room menu. "They were engineered for the home cook," Oliver says.
With the exception of the first chapter of small bites, the book is organized by species, with plenty of little facts and trivia about them, nutrient information, and recipes listed by country and region. Guillas and Oliver are avid world travelers, who collect recipes and culinary inspiration like tourists collect special trinkets. "The recipes in the book are the accumulation of a lifetime of travel," says Oliver.
In fact, there were surprises. Guillas loves mussels and was surprised to find green-lipped mussels in the Indian state of Goa. Thanks to its southwestern coastal location, Goa was discovered by Portuguese traders back in the 15th century, when they were searching for a trade route. The colonial influences of Portugal still can be found in the cuisine, including seafood curries. Guillas enjoyed these curry pots and created a dish, Goa Mussels Hot Pot, based on his experience--and using green mussels.
|Goa Mussels Hot Pot. Photo by Marshall Williams|
Writing a seafood book was actually the duo's original idea, before they published Flying Pans, their first book. But, at the time, the publishing world wasn't interested, so they shelved it. Their agent, however, still had the proposal, and with Flying Pans in bookstores, shopped it again to publishers--and surprised them by selling it.
Since their initial idea, they went even deeper, addressing sustainability issues, discussing the pros and cons of farmed versus wild seafood. Their dedication is a virtual mission statement of that approach, "To preserve this enjoyment for generations to come, it is everyone's responsibility to care for our oceans, support sustainable fishery, and make well-informed decisions when purchasing seafood."
|Wild Baja Shrimp Cocktail. Photo by Marshall Williams|
I visited with the chefs at The Marine Room last week. They prepared their Bacon Wrapped Monkfish Tail for me, accompanied by a green salad with a slice of chevre, cherry tomatoes, and beets. This is a dish created by Guillas, who was raised on the coast of Brittany in France. Monkfish is local to the region and his Uncle Bernard used to prepare it by wrapping the tail in bacon and roasting it over the fire. The result is a sweet and tender fish with a smoky crust.
|Bacon Wrapped Monkfish Tail. Photo by Marshall Williams|
"We wanted to focus on simple techniques," says Guillas. "Seafood can be expensive so people want something that will guarantee them a good dish. We're trying to take the intimidation out of preparing seafood."
|Olive Oil Poached Salmon. Photo by Marshall Williams|
boneless (6 ounces each)