For the second version of Ducasse's dish, I made some big changes-
Sometimes I do the dish with cod and in the past I did it with Chilean Sea Bass. I don't buy Chilean Sea Bass any longer due to sustainability issues, and I really didn't want to use cod. A bit boring I thought. Then on a lark I stopped at Trader Joe's and I found this elusive fish in the freezer case:
In the Northwest we regard "Black Cod" as highly as the mighty salmon, dungeness and king crabs. The chi-chi name is "sablefish," but whatever you call it is a superior fish--oily, firm flesh and lends itself to a variety of cooking methods. I typically smoke it and serve it in a shallow dish with an Asian soup. Black Cod is also delicious marinated in Alaskan Brewing smoked porter and then slowly braised and served with steamed bok choy. Although it was frozen, I couldn't thank Trader Joe's enough. It's rare that we see black cod fresh even when it's in season.
Instead of going with Great Northern beans this time I used dried garbanzo beans. We always called them garbanzo's when I was a kid, but I suppose that "chickpea" sounds a little more contemporary. My thinking was that garbanzo's would be more flavorful than Great Northern beans, (certainly more flavorful than canned), and I'd still be within the French-Medittereanean theme of the Ducasse dish. I considered the flavor of the beans to be more compatible with the black cod and squid.
The beans take time, starting with a soak overnight in water. Then on day two you cook the beans for 1 1/2 hours in a pot of water, carrot, onion, celery and unpeeled garlic cloves. Once the beans are tender, step three calls for steeping herbs in the beans off the heat. You don't drain the beans or remove the vegetables at this point, just add the herbs and some olive oil and let it sit off the heat about an hour. The beans pick up just a whisper of the scent of the herbs. Step four calls for processing the beans into a paste and adding only the bean water to thin the sauce. Then the fifth step is to pass the rough puree through a fine sieve. Finally, just before service you heat up the bean puree and season and add a dash of olive oil. I reserved some of the whole garbanzo beans for the garnish. I followed the steps in the recipe fairly strictly this time and the results were evident--a smooth, silky bean puree with pure flavor, (not the diluted flavor of canned beans).
The recipe calls for adding a dash of sherry wine vinegar to the bean puree, but this time I took a turn and made a syrup from this wonderful product-
Since I wasn't adding the tang of vinegar to the beans, my intention was to use the blood orange balsamic as a garnish but provide the sour boost of vinegar to cut the rich bean sauce and the oil in the black cod. I didn't want to just swig runny vinegar on the fish and the squid, so I reduced it into a syrup, a technique I often use to reduce the acid of the vinegar and bring out the sweetness. The reduced sweet and sour syrup had notes of orange and citrus which married beautifully to the richer elements of the dish.
The squid was flash-fried in a hot pan in olive oil for no more than 20 seconds, then tossed in fresh lemon juice. In this dish, the squid adds texture and flavor while staying within the theme of "seafood," and letting the black cod take the centerstage.
Although it took a week and the dish underwent some major changes, it was worth the time. Clams could work as the garnish to the black cod, maybe mussels, possibly oysters. But those creatures don't have the texture, delicate flavor and stunning presentation showed by squid.
Sablefish with Seared Squid, Chickpea Puree and Blood Orange Balsamic Syrup-