"...She is here with us, her actual spirit. We have spirits who look after us. I don't know why it is Grandma Ripert who looks after me-there were other relatives I was closer to. But it is she who is with me..."Awwww. Perhaps I delight in Ripert's relationship to his grandma since I too have such a loving relationship with mine. My amazing grandma, who is thankfully still with us, will turn 95 this December! Love you grams!
Well, as sweet as Eric Ripert's homage is, he brings with him much more culinary experience than simply cooking beside his grandmother. In addition to the two years he worked under the legendary Joël Robuchon at La Tour d'Argent, he held various positions in some of the most outstanding restaurants in France and the US. Ripert eventually became executive chef at New York City's acclaimed Le Bernardin. The following year, at the age of 29, the restaurant earned a four-star rating from the New York Times and in 1996 he became a part-owner. In the Michelin Guide NYC 2006, Ripert's Le Bernardin was one of four New York City restaurants to be awarded the maximum 3 Michelin stars for excellence in cuisine!
Having mastered the arts of haute cuisine, the finesse and elegance of Ripert's recipes may not surprise you. Specifically, in this recipe he brought about what has always been to me only a joke. Whenever someone asks too much of another, I chime in and saucily request a "bowl of peeled grapes."
Yep, this Halibut recipe really and truly calls for "30 seedless red grapes, peeled and halved." Needless to say, this is not a weeknight recipe. It took quite a while to peel all of these grapes, but I happily made it my meditation for the evening.
As I often do, I changed up some of the ingredients according to what I had available. Below I have listed the ingredients from Ripert's recipe as well as some of my deviations.
1.25 C dry red wine
1/4 C red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 carrot, peeled
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh (or 1/4 tsp dried) fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1 cup port (or other fortified wine)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
30 seedless red grapes (I used muscat grapes), PEELED! and halved
Six 5-oz. thick halibut fillets (or two 5-oz. fillets if you're only cooking for you and your girlfriend)
2 tablespoons canola oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small pot. Add the grapes and warm over low heat. Set aside in a warm plate.
For the halibut, wrap a 7-inch piece of kitchen twine around each fillet, pulling it tightly so the fillet forms a circle (Note: Since I was just cooking for two, I bought one fillet that was uniformly thick, and skipped the twine...from here on, I'll give directions for the 2 fillet recipe). Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over high heat. Season the halibut generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the fillets to the pan and sear for 4 minutes, or until golden brown on the first side. Turn each fillet over and cook for another 4 minutes, or until a metal skewer inserted into the center of the fillet comes out warm. This method for cooking halibut, by the way, is fantastic, regardless of how you serve it.
To serve, place the fish in the center of a dinner plate. Place grape halves on top of each fillet, spoon sauce around and serve immediately.