Laurent Gras is the Executive Chef at Fifth Floor, a modern French restaurant in San Francisco. In 2002, he was named "Chef of the Year" by San Francisco magazine, and Food and Wine magazine named him one of its "Best New Chefs." He says there are three major principles that his food follows: flavor, aesthetic and perfection.
We challenged Chef Gras to create a three-course meal for four on our $30 budget. Gras came through with a menu of spaghetti squash salad with orange vinaigrette as an appetizer; skate sautéed with soy sauce and iceberg lettuce for the main dish; and apple galette for dessert.
Skate: This fish is also known as a ray. The names are often used interchangeably though in some quarters the term "skate" is applied to the members of this species that are used for eating while "ray" generally refers to those (such as the electric ray and giant manta ray) that are fished for sport. Skates have winglike pectoral fins that undulate as the fish meanders along the ocean floor. The fins are the edible part of the skate. Skate is often described as sweet, firm and white. It is similar to the texture and taste of scallops. In fact, skate for a long time was considered not worthy by many fish mongers, so they would use round molds to cut round pieces of skate to sell as scallops to naive buyers. Skate is available year-round.
Vinaigrette: It is one of the five "mother sauces" from traditional French cuisine. Those basic sauces are the white sauce Béchamel, the light stock-based Velouté, the brown stock-based Espagnole; the two basic emulsified sauces, Hollandaise and Mayonnaise; and the oil and vinegar-based Vinaigrette.. In the simplest form, vinaigrette consists of oil, vinegar (usually 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar), salt, and pepper. You can create more elaborate variations using herbs, spices, shallots, onions, etc. For this recipe, Gras created an orange vinaigrette.
Galette (gah-LEHT): This round, flat cake hails from France. It is generally made of flaky-pastry dough, a yeast dough, or unleavened dough. The term can apply to a variety of tarts, both sweet or savory.
Enoki (en-OH-kee): Enoki mushrooms are a cultivated variety. They are crispy with spaghetti-like stems topped with tiny, snowy white caps. They are available year-round in Asian markets and some supermarkets and they are a good source of vitamin D.
Spaghetti Squash Salad
(Orange, enoki mushrooms and cilantro)
Spaghetti Squash Ingredients
1 spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground white pepper
Split the squash in two; remove the seeds with a soupspoon. Season the flesh with salt, pepper to taste, and the olive oil. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 20 minute until the pulp is tender. Using a fork, gently shred the pulp into strings and remove. Set the shredded pulp on a towel to cool to room temperature.
Spaghetti squash pulp (see above)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 package enoki mushrooms
5 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped using the leaves only
1 scallion, chopped using the green only
- Remove the peel of the orange using a knife. Holding the orange over a bowl, remove the segments from the membrane, also with a knife. Reserve the orange sections. Squeeze out the remaining juice from the orange membrane.
- Add the juice of 1/2 lemon and the soy sauce to the bowl of orange juice. With a whisk, add the olive oil in a slow stream and mix until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Lightly rinse the enoki mushrooms under cold water. Gently pat dry with paper towels. Cut off 1 1/2 to 2 inches of the bottom root. Gently separate the mushrooms.
- In a large bowl combine the spaghetti squash, orange sections and enoki mushrooms. Toss with the sauce.
Divide the salad amongst four plates. Sprinkle cilantro and green onions on top.
(Sautéed with soy sauce, lemon vinaigrette and iceberg lettuce)
1 16-oz skate wing, cut into 4 4-ounce pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce
grape seed oil
freshly ground white pepper
Pour the soy sauce onto a plate; place the fish on the plate and marinate on one side only for 15 minutes. Heat a non-stick pan over high heat until it is hot. Place the fish in the pan soy side down. Sauté for about 3 minutes until the skate is caramelized. Flip the skate over and cook for 1 to 3 more minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. Cook until the meat is white and no longer translucent. Season the fish with pepper to taste.
Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients:
4 tablespoons lemon juice
grated lemon peel of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch of chive, finely chopped
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
Combine the grated lemon peel and juice in a bowl. With a whisk, add the olive oil in a slow stream and mix until well blended and emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Iceberg Lettuce Ingredients:
1 iceberg lettuce
Remove the outer layer of leaves. Cut the lettuce in half. Cut each half into small wedges. Divide the wedges among 4 plates. In the center of each plate, place the wedges in a pinwheel shape, with the points meeting in the center.
Place the skate on top of the salad. Whisk the chive into the vinaigrette and using a spoon drizzle the vinaigrette over the skate.
(Served with crème fraîche and honey)
1 8 ounce box of puff pastry
2 Fuji apples
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons warm honey
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup crème fraîche
- Using a 6-inch ring mold (or a 6-inch plate and a paring knife) cut 4 rounds of puff pastry. Place the puff pastry on a nonstick baking sheet. Prick the pastry all over with a fork.
- Peel the apples, cut in half, remove the seeds and thinly slice. Place the apples in a single layer on the puff pastry to completely cover it. Brush the apples with the melted honey, then with the melted butter. Bake in 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes until the apples and pastry are golden brown. While baking, brush the galette a couple of times with honey and butter to better caramelize the apples. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Place each galette onto a plate. Serve a dish of crème fraîche and a dish of honey on the side.