Category Archives: Fish & Shellfish

malbec lemon shrimp risotto

hubby had popped open a bottle of fabre montmayou malbec circa 2007 the other day, which turned out to be perfect because i was in the mood to make some risotto. i have a rather anything goes attitude towards risotto.  what goes into it is largely determined by what i can find in my freezer, fridge and pantry.  this time around, i decided to toss some frozen shrimp into the pot along with lemon zest and chopped parsley.  it turned out to be a richly nuanced dish that was just creamy and heady enough for my tastes.

Malbec Lemon Shrimp Risotto
(3-4 servings)

Arborio Rice 1 ½ cups
Chicken Broth (preferably homemade) 3 ½ cups
Red Wine 1 cup
Onion Small onion, minced
Butter 1 tbsp
Olive Oil 1-2 bsp
Shrimp 1 lb, peeled and deveined. I used jumbo shrimp, but any size can be used so long as the cooking time is adjusted.
Parsley 1 handful, finely chopped
Lemon Zest From 1 lemon
Salt & Pepper To Taste
  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot or pan. Do not use non-stick.
  2. When the butter has dissolved, add in onions.  Sautee until softened over medium heat.
  3. Pour in rice.  Stir until the rice is slightly translucent and coated with the oil,butter & onion mixture.
  4. Add in red wine.  Allow the liquid to boil down.   When it has evaporated, add in chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time.  Do not add the broth in all at once.  The creaminess of the risotto is developed by allowing the rice to slowly absorb the liquids.  It’s probably best that you hover over the stove and stir constantly rather than walk away.  The rice can burn quite easily. Risotto is a bit high maintenance but totally worth it.
  5. Add in the shrimp when you have 1/2 cup of chicken stock remaining.
  6. When the shrimp have cooked (about 2-3 minutes), stir in parsley and lemon zest.
  7. Add salt and pepper to suit your taste buds.

sesame shrimp

i made sesame shrimp for thanksgiving and my mom even asked me for the recipe.   you can prep them in advance and freeze them for up to a month.  just drop them into some hot oil when your guests arrive and you’ll have some happy stomachs.

Sesame Shrimp
(serves 5 to 6 people family style; adapted from Cecilia Chang’s The Seventh Daughter)

Large shrimp 1 lb, shelled and deveined with tails attached
Flour 1 ½ cups
Sesame seeds 2 cups white sesame; ½ cup black sesame
Sesame oil 1 tsp
Rice Wine 3 tbsp
Eggs 2 large ones
Cornstarch ½ cup
Baking Soda 1 tsp
Canola Oil ½ cup, plus enough for deep frying
Water 1 cup
  1. Wash and dry shrimp.  Using a knife, cut down the back of each shrimp, leaving the tail attached.
  2. Put 1 cup of flour in a bowl.  Put sesame seeds in a separate bowl.  Set aside.
  3. In a third bowl, mix together sesame oil, wine, eggs, cornstarch, baking soda, 1/2 cup of canola oil, water, and remaining 1/2 cup flour.  This is your batter.
  4. Dip each piece of shrimp in the flour first, then the batter (from step 3), and finally the sesame.
  5. The coated shrimps at this point can either be frozen (by separating each layer of shrimp with parchment paper or plastic) until ready to fry, or fried immediately.
  6. To fry, heat a saucepan filled half-way with canola oil until it reached 360ºF.  Put 1 shrimp in first to test and then work with a batch of 2 to 3 at a time.  The shrimps are cooked when crispy and deep brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. I served the shrimp with a spicy mayo sauce.

smoked salmon risotto tart

i took this picture on the fly as i was plating about 20 other dishes for my family thanksgiving get-together.  it’s not a great picture but the flavour of this savoury tart is exquisite — a crisp tart shell filled with scottish smoked salmon and a rich arborio rice filling.  even my uncle and parents, who haven’t got an affinity for non-asian dishes, went back for seconds.

the tart is fantastic for large gatherings.  it can be made weeks in advance and kept frozen.  just pop it into the oven for 30 minutes when ready to serve.

Smoked Salmon Risotto Tart
(makes one 9.5 inch tart; adapted from Christine Ferber’s book Mes Tartes

Pastry Dough 300g (you can use pate brisee or pate sucre)
Smoked Salmon 150g to 300g
Crème Fraiche 3.5 tbsp
Eggs 2 large ones
Dill 1 bunch, finely chopped
Risotto Filling:
Milk 500g
Arborio Rice 60g
Butter 25g (2 tbsp)
Eggs 1 large one
Egg yolks 3 yolks
Crème Fraiche 4 tbsp
Salt and Pepper To taste
  1. Prepare the risotto filling first and allow it to cool:  Combine milk, rice, salt and pepper in a small saucepan.  Bring it to a simmer over low heat.  Continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the rice has softened.  Most of the liquid should have been absorbed.  Then, add in the egg, yolks, creme fraiche and butter.  Cook for 30 more seconds.  Transfer to a bowl, wrap with plastic and allow to cool.
  2. Blind bake the tart shell: Bake the prepared / frozen tart shell (see link for instructions for making pate sucre) for 15 minutes at 350°F.  Then, using a pastry brush, glaze the tart shell with a little egg wash.  Bake for an additional 5 minutes.  The egg wash will make the tart more “moisture-proof.”
  3. Fill the tart: when the tart shell has cooled, line the bottom of the tart with smoked salmon.  In a bowl mix the creme fraiche with the eggs, then add the risotto filling and chopped dill. Pour the concoction over the smoked salmon.  At this point, you can bake it immediately, or freeze it until you’re ready to bake it.
  4. Bake the tart: Set the oven to 425°F.  Set the tart on the middle rack of the oven and bake it for about 25 to 30 minutes.  The tart shell and risotto filling should be lightly browned.

mon dieu! chez michel’s fish soup

chez michel

chez michel

on a brisk summer evening with the sunlight just softening into amber, my husband and i turned left away from the hustle and bustle of gare du nord station, and wandered down a quiet alley, sandwiched between several larger streets.  things did not look promising. rue de belzunce was under much construction, and it felt as if we had either gotten lost (again) or were headed to a ramshackle demolition site.

chez michel appeared, like an oasis, at the end of the block. cheery ruffled valances and patina-ed glass greeted us. it was the prototypical french bistro, except that it hadn’t gone out of its way to age its mirrors, dent its wood paneling, or import its dining chairs in a very complete effort to be a replica of the perfect french bistro.  no, it was the real thing, and more so than taking our first step off the plane into the streets of paris or biting into a pain au chocolat at laduree, chez michel transported us to a different place.  to us, we could very well have been sitting in the perfect french bistro at the end of an infinitely long highway running through the hitchhiker’s galaxy.

soupe de poisson

soupe de poisson

chef thierry breton serves classic breton dishes, the most spectacular of which was the fish soup, served with a quart size pitcher on the side (because they knew you would ask for seconds). hearty, velvety, oozing of umami. i would have to agree with another’s observation that the soup is a “life altering” experience.  it carried me to morbihan coastline. i could imagine myself a fisherman wizened with the wisdom of the sea, safely ensconced in my cottage by nightfall, listening to the waves lap up against the shore, slurping slowly a hot bowl of fish soup as the whisps of rising steam warmed my cheeks.

since coming back from paris, i’ve been thinking about that soup. a lot.  i haven’t been able to replicate it yet, but i think i’ve come up with something vaguely reminiscent. i keep hoping that one day, chef breton will speak and divulge his fish soup making process to the world, and until then i’ll keep tinkering away. . .

Rue de Belzunce Fish Soup (a recipe, like the street, very much under construction)

Olive oil                             ¼ cup
Red Onions                      2 medium ones, diced
Garlic                                5-6 cloves, mashed
Fresh Parsley                  ¼ cup, chopped
Fresh Thyme                   1 tbsp
Bay Leaf                           1 dried leaf
Potatoes                           ½ lb, peeled and cubed
Saffron                              1 tsp
Tomatoes                         2 lbs, peeled and chopped
Fish                                  4 to 5 lbs (i used cleaned fish fillets; cod, snapper, hake, perch. any white fish that isn’t too oily should work)
Fish stock                       2 quarts
Pernod                            1/2 cup
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pot over low heat. Add onion, garlic, herbs, potatoes, then tomatoes until lightly browned and softened.
  2. Pour in stock. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes until the soup has been reduced by 1/3.
  3. Bring the soup base to a boil again,  and then add large, whole fish first and boil for 5 minutes.  Then add the smaller more delicate fish and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Pour in pernod and sprinkle in saffron. Allow the soup to simmer for 30 more seconds.
  5. If you have an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot until it’s mostly smooth but with tiny chunks.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, wait for the soup to cool and then puree with a blender or food processor.
  6. Flavour with salt and pepper, and serve with a few croutons and finely chopped parsley.

Chez Michel
Address: 1o rue de belzunce, 10e   (1oth arrondissement, Metro: Gare du Nord)
Tel: 01-44-53-06-20
Prices:  fixed price menu 35€; supplements additional
Reservations essential

a gallery of some other delights we enjoyed at chez michel:


Perfect Pot-au-Feu

breton kouign aman

breton kouign aman



cooking tip #1: potato starch.

potato starch crusted swordfish

potato starch crusted swordfish

potato starch’s the be all and end all in coating a piece of fish, chicken, beef or pork for pan frying.

i first discovered potato starch when making karaage (唐揚げ), the very addictive pieces of fried chicken chunks typically served in sake bars.  if you look closely, the light white layer of coating on the chicken chunks is potato starch in its fried up form.

for fish, i’ve found that potato starch tends to adhere better to the fish (you don’t even have to dredge it into an egg wash or milk wash). it also tends to resist browning more than other options, seems to form a crispier shell, and has a neutral flavour.

can you tell i really like potato starch?