I’m beginning to think that this man can do no wrong. Ottolenghi is becoming my culinary hero. He’s my gastronomic soul mate, people. Quite literally, all of his recipes slay and get in formation. Whenever I flip a page I impulsively blurt out “I see it, I want it.” Ok, I’ll cool it on the Beyoncé references. Or maybe I won’t, you’ll just have to see.
So, like I said, Ottoleghi is officially my new chef crush because I really think every recipe in his book is good. Really, every one. I’m sure he knows it, too. Some call it arrogant, I call it confident.
Some people may just be naturally talented. That’s what Ottolenghi is, a natural talent. He only went to culinary school for a six-month training program at Le Cordon Bleu in London. Normally culinary school takes between a year-and-a-half to four years, so who needs a degree when you’re schoolin’ in life, amiright? I mean, of course the man has a degree, but finishing in that short of a time with his culinary genius is rather impressive. You know it, and should put some respek on his name.
I stumbled upon this recipe, which actually calls for haddock (and in fact calls for it to be steamed, whoops) and decided to make it. But this is how much blind trust I have in Ottolenghi. The recipe came without a photo. No picture at all! I had to lean only on my intuition.
One of my favorite parts of this dish was the crisped shallots, which were tossed with a bit of cornstarch and Chinese five spice powder. I’ve never used Chinese five spice powder, but I decided that there was no better time than now because, I may be young and I’m ready. It’s an almost kaleidoscopic mixture of fennel seed, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and Szechuan pepper. It’s aromatic and added a new complexity to the average, fried shallots I knew from the past.
The base of the dish was the sesame seed Bagna Cauda. Bagna Cauda is a traditiional dip from the Piedmont region of northern Italy, and is typically heavy with the umami flavor of anchovies, along with garlic and butter.
This rendition had the anchovies, but also included fresh tomatoes and the crisp flavor of toasted sesame seeds. It also included the bite of a splash of sherry vinegar and a slight sweet note from the nob of brown sugar. Okay, okay, there was also a little bit of butter. I couldn’t help myself, ten times out of nine I’m only human. Butter needed to be swirled in.
After zipping the Bagna Cauda through my food processor, I cooked the kale down with a bit of wine and some lemon zest, and we were all set to go. Just to let you know, this recipe DOES call for the fish to be steamed. I didn’t have a steamer, but if you do, use yours. You can also use a colander that fits inside of a dutch oven. There are options, everybody.
The Bagna Cauda was fresh from the tomatoes, but still had rich elements from the anchovies and butter. There was also an occasional crispness and warmth from the toasted sesame seeds.
The kale had a pleasant, clean flavor and the shallots were crisp and salty. All of the recipes in Nopi have such a complex depth of flavor, and this was no different.
This dish, again, was not difficult. There was just a bit of prep work involved, but the end result was obviously worth the minimal amount of effort. Thank you again, Ottolenghi.
Also if you were keeping track, there were six hidden Beyoncé lyrics.