Branzino over Roasted Parsnips & Quinoa with Chardonnay Foam Sauce, Lemon Ash

This third course took a long time to develop, like all the components tying together. I originally wanted to do some kind of a purée and have the fish rest on top of that but then I realized that I don’t have a starch dish for my 5-course dinner. I wanted to make farro again but Whole Foods was out of that, like completely empty in the bulk section!! I was then torn between couscous, rice pilaf, and quinoa. I opted for quinoa.

Serves 2.


[100% organic]

For the Lemon Ash

  • 1 lemon, sliced and seeds removed

In the oven, incinerate one lemon at 500°F or under a broiler. Once cool, blend in a blender and pass through a fine strainer. Place in an airtight container and set aside.

For the Wine Foam

  • Half a bottle of Chardonnay
  • Aromatics – whole black peppercorns, parsley stems, tarragon sprigs, garlic, bay leaves, thyme sprigs
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup cream
  • Salt

The white wine used in this reduction should complement the fish. In a pan, reduce wine with aromatics until almost dry. Add in milk and cream and bring to a simmer. Simmer and infuse for 15 minutes. Strain and season.

Before serving, using an immersion blender, foam up sauce.

For the Parsnips

  • 4 thin parsnips
  • Olive oil
  • Thyme sprigs
  • Salt

Preheat oven at 400°F. Peel parsnips and cut into obliques. Place parsnips in a baking pan and season with olive oil, thyme sprigs, and salt. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes then unwrapped for another 10 minutes. When tender, set aside to cool.

For the Quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 onions
  • Parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • Bouquet garni
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

The chicken stock sold in stores are usually lacking flavor so go ahead and make a reinforced chicken stock. Sweat one onion, thinly sliced, in a saucepan. Then add in chopped celery and carrots. Once a little caramelized, add in chicken stock and bouquet garni. Reduce by more than half, then strain and continue to reduce. Reduce until you have a little less than one cup.

Cook quinoa with two cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover with lid, and simmer until the grains are translucent and the germ has spiraled out from each grain, about 15 minutes. Once cooked, cool on a tray.

In a large pan, sweat the other onion, small dice, and then add in parsnips, quinoa, and reduced reinforced chicken stock. Heat through, adjust seasoning, add in chopped parsley, and keep warm.

For the Branzino

  • 4 branzino fillets, with skin
  • Butter
  • Thyme sprigs
  • Canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season fish with salt and pepper. In a hot pan, coat the bottom with canola oil. Place fish fillets skin-side down and turn heat down to low. Add in a cube of butter and thyme sprigs. Wait until butter is bubbly, then baste flesh-side of the fish with a spoon. Once fish is white, not pink, turn off heat and quickly flip each fillet over and cook flesh-side for 3-seconds. Remove from pan and place on a wire-rack.


Spoon quinoa parsnip mixture onto a plate, place branzino fillet on top. Spoon wine foam over fish and sprinkle with lemon ash.


Seared Halibut with Farro, Chestnuts, Wild Mushrooms & Blueberry Balsamic Reduction

This was the fifth course to my 6-course New Year’s Day Dinner party for 8 people.

I really had this dish plated in my head much nicer than what actually happened on the plate. First, the fish market screwed me over with how they butchered the fish. Second, by this time through the meal, I already chugged down more than a few glasses of wine. Third, what the hell was I thinking when I put the reduction on the plate???

NEVERTHELESS, I loved the taste of the dish and so did everyone else.


[100% organic]

For the Farro

  • 2 cups farro
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • Salt

Combine the farro, salt, and chicken stock in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender, about 20-40 minutes. Taste often as it is cooking, you want it to be toothsome and retain some structure. Remove from heat, drain any excess liquid, and set aside. Reserve liquid for reheating.

For the Garniture

  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • Maitake mushrooms
  • Chestnuts
  • Parsley, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut through the pointed top of the chestnut shell to allow steam to escape. Place the chestnuts in a baking tray and into the oven. After 15-20 minutes, the cut part of the chestnut shell will be curled back. Remove from oven, and wait until chestnuts are cool enough to handle. Peel the shell off the chestnut, and set aside.

Cut chestnuts into small pieces.

In a large pan, sauté the onions, then maitake mushrooms. Add in chestnuts. Season to taste. Add some chopped parsley. Add in cooked farro and mix thoroughly. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. Keep warm and set aside.

For the Blueberry Reduction

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, more for garnish

Crush berries until juicy and then add vinegar. Let the berry juice and pulp infuse with vinegar for an hour.

Pour blueberry and vinegar mixture through a very fine strainer to remove pulp and seeds. Bring strained blueberry vinegar to a simmer, whisking constantly. Reduce vinegar down until desired consistency. Mix in fresh berries and keep warm.

For the Fish

  • 8 halibut fillets
  • Butter
  • Thyme sprigs
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Heat up a very hot pan, without adding any oil. Once pan is hot, add in canola oil. Season fish with salt and black pepper on both sides then sear, skin-side down. Immediately bring heat down and wait until skin has a nice sear till you baste it in butter and thyme.

Once you have finished basting, and the flesh of the fish looks white. Cake tester it to see if the center of the fish is hot. If center is still cold, flash fish in hot oven, 500°F, for a few minutes.


Scoop farro mixture onto plate, place fish beside farro and plate reduction around it.

Fish Tacos with a Chardonnay Parmesan Sauce

I used tortillas to make tacos in this recipe, does that mean that there is a Mexican influence in this dish? Living in Texas for 10 years, I never really got into Mexican food. Frankly, I don’t prefer it. When my friends and I would end the night out, we would always go to Kerbey Lane. They would always get queso to start with and ugh, I didn’t like it/I didn’t eat any of it. However, I do like guacamole and salsa. Anyway, when we would go to Trudy’s, I always ordered the club sandwich while everyone else would order tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.

What I’m saying is that, I found a new appreciation for tortillas. When I was interning at Oceana, one of the appetizers that I had to plate was fish tacos. It was topped with a lime-mayo sauce and served with pickled jalapeño peppers in a pink dipping sauce. I don’t like mayo so I made my own sauce.

[100% organic, wild hake]

For the Fish

  • 4 cups AP flour
  • 2 TBS ground coriander
  • 2 TBS cayenne pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ lb hake fillets or any other white fish

Cut fish fillets into thin strips and set aside.

In a ziplock bag, pour in the flour, ground coriander, and cayenne pepper. Shake it to mix well. Beat eggs in a bowl and set aside.

Work in batches, take a handful of sliced fish and drop them into the beaten eggs. Coat egg wash on each individual fish piece. Strain and give them a little shake before putting them into the ziplock bag. Close ziplock bag and shake to coat fish pieces. Take out of bag and place on a wire wrack with a sheet tray under it.

Freeze breaded fish until ready to use.

For the Sauce

  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1 TBS AP flour
  • ½ cup chardonnay
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • Salt & pepper

In a small saucepan, melt the butter then add in the flour. Mix to combine well and cook for 1 minute to get rid of the raw flour taste. Whisk in the cream and wine. Cook until slightly thickened and add in the parmesan cheese, mix well to combine, and season with salt and pepper. Add a dash of cayenne pepper. Cool for 5 minutes and then place in a squeeze bottle.

Shake the bottle before using.

For the Tacos

  • White corn tortillas
  • 2 cups mesclun salad, packed

Scrunch up mesclun salad and slice thinly, set aside. Heat up tortillas according to package instructions.

For the Finish

  • 1 cup cilantro leaves (optional)
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt & pepper

In a deep fryer, heat oil to 350°F. Work in batches, fry fish pieces until golden brown. When fish are ready, let it cool for 2 minutes over a wire rack and season with salt & pepper.


Take a pinch of the chopped salad and place in the center of the tortilla. Place fish pieces on top of salad, top with cilantro leaves, and drizzle sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

*I forgot to put the cilantro leaves on, under the sauce. Oops!

**Inspired from Oceana.

Anything can be made into a tiny serving: bite size!

Tuna Tartare with Pineapple Sauce

You know me, I love sashimi and any type of tartare. But I love this tartare recipe exceptionally well because of the pineapple sauce it pairs with it. I never got the recipe from Oceana directly but this is what I tasted when I had the pineapple sauce.

I served this as the appetizer to my 4-course dinner. I plated this as a smiley face.

[100% organic, wild tuna]

For the Garnish

  • 3 cucumbers, julienned
  • Salt
  • EVOO
  • Microgreens
  • 1 cup pineapple, small dice
  • 8 wonton wrappers
  • Sesame seeds, as needed
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 300°F. Cut the wonton wrappers in half diagonally and then again so you get four triangles from each piece. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Then sprinkle sesame seeds over wonton wrappers. Place in oven on a sheet tray for 4-6 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Put in an airtight container and set aside.

Peel the cucumbers and on a mandolin, julienne the flesh parts only. Do not julienne the core or seeds. Place in a container and set aside in the fridge.

For the Tartare

  • 9 oz. tuna
  • 2 pineapples
  • 2 shallots, finely minced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, finely sliced
  • ½ cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, thinly sliced
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • Salt & black pepper
  • EVOO

Cut pineapples into small squares, reserve 1 cup for garnish. Reserve scraps, trimmings, and core for sauce and place in blender. Do not keep any flesh with the black bits.

Cut tuna into small dice and set aside, on an ice bath or in the fridge. The tuna and pineapple dice should be relatively similar in size and shape.

In a large mixing bowl, mix diced tuna, chopped pineapples, green chilis, basil, and cilantro. Do not season with salt nor add lime juice until ready to serve because the salt and lime juice will cook the fish. Set aside on an ice bath or place in the fridge.

For the Sauce

  • Pineapple scraps & trimmings
  • 1 tsp agar-agar
  • One 17 oz. sweet rice wine / mirin
  • Cayenne pepper

Place all non-black bits of pineapple scraps and trimmings in a blender, along with the agar-agar and rice wine. Blend until smooth. Pour everything into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add a dash of cayenne pepper. The sauce should be sweet but have a kick at the end. Do not strain the sauce and cool it down immediately.

*Inspired by Oceana.


Season the tuna tartare with salt, pepper, lime juice, and EVOO. Mix well and using a 2-inch ring mold, spoon tuna tartare into the mold, on the plate, half way up and press down to firmly pack it in. Season the julienned cucumber with salt and EVOO. Twirl the julienned cucumbers and place on top of the tuna, in the mold. Spoon cold pineapple sauce onto the plate and garnish with 1 tsp pineapple dice and microgreens. Remove ring mold, place two wonton chips in tartare and serve.

Flounder en Papillote with Fennel, Grape Tomatoes, Tarragon & Lime

This is an update to my Tomato Basil Salmon en Papillote and Shark Loin in Foil Packets. Those were before my chef training days and the wrapping of the parchment paper is incorrect because there’s no room for the steam to baste every ingredient with its own juices! I also didn’t seal it properly. The foil is the modern way of wrapping it and it requires less “skill”/technique. But to my recollection, both ways still tasted great and I loved how there was little/minimal clean up involved.

In school, we practiced this technique twice; once in level 1 and the other in level 3. Well, repeatedly in level 3, which focused on consistency. In level 3, we did it with striped bass with tomato fondue, mushrooms duxelles, and julienned carrots, leeks, and celery. It definitely wasn’t “quick and easy” as I have labeled here on my blog. We made 4 portions: we had to fillet our own fish and OMG, pin bones!!! Stubborn pin bones, DIE!!! Cooking the finely diced tomatoes and mushrooms, separately, took a long time. Then with your knife, we had to julienne those three garnitures and cook them, separately, until tender, before putting them into the parchment paper envelope. I hate julienning carrots because when you slice a carrot really thinly, it curls and, gahhhhhh! It just gets frustrating.

There are three cooking techniques in papillote: baking, braising, and steaming! Or if you want to be really “French” about it: VAPEUR!!! That’s what our chef instructors drilled into our heads. Haha.

Anyway, I also decided to make this because I still can’t stop using my Japanese mandolin! Even after my accident at work last week!

By the way, this recipe serves 1.

[100% organic, wild flounder]

  • 10 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ small onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ small fennel bulb, fronds reserved
  • 1 large flounder fillet
  • 2 slices lime
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 5 tarragon leaves
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1 egg white
  • White wine, splash
  • EVOO
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

In a small pan, sweat the onions on low heat with 1 TBS of olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the half of the minced garlic and sweat for another 30 seconds. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let it cool at room temperature.

In a bowl, mix the grape tomatoes with the remaining minced garlic, some salt, pepper, and EVOO. Toss and set aside.

Using a mandolin, slice the fennel bulb razor thin and place in ice cold water with ice.

Remove yolk from egg, keep white and beat lightly.


Preheat oven to 450°F.

Take shaved fennel out of the iced water and dry on paper/hand towels and season with salt, pepper, lime juice and apple cider vinegar. Toss and set aside.

Cut the parchment paper (12 x16 in) into a heart shape. Season the fillet with salt and pepper. Place the cooled onion mixture on one half of the heart-shaped parchment paper, but not too close to the fold. Spoon tomatoes in a single layer over onions. Sprinkle the tarragon leaves over tomatoes.

Fold/roll the fillet so that it fits nicely on top of tarragon, tomatoes, and onions. Top with seasoned fennel and remaining tomatoes. I put 1 TBS of butter into the folded fish fillet and the other 1 TBS butter around at the end. Lastly, splash some white wine over the fish.

Brush the edges of the paper heart with the lightly beaten egg white. Fold paper heart in half, and press the edges together to seal. Brush the edges of the folded package with the beaten egg white and make a series of short folds along the edges. For an extra secure seal, repeat by brushing the edges again with egg white and repeat the short folds. Using a pastry brush, very lightly oil the top of the papillote so that the paper doesn’t burn too much in the oven.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. When finished, piece a tiny hole on top of the papillote and serve immediately with toasted bread to soak up the juices!

Pan Roasted Mahi-Mahi over Fava Beans, Snow Pea Shoots & Enoki with Saffron-Mussel Liquor Velouté

I feel like I had to tie in everything I have learned so far in school for this final dish on my menu project. I only have a few months left of school.

I was inspired by Top Chef Texas (S09E06), the array of food images that I see online (Taste Spotting), and the stuff that I do in school (levels 1 and 3, filet de orata Américaine). I like to think that this recipe came together in a dream. I liked the way that we presented the orata in level 3 so the plating bares a lot of resemblance to that.

[100% organic, wild mahi-mahi]

For the Saffron-Mussel Liquor Velouté

  • 1 lb mussels
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 pinches of saffron threads
  • ½ cup flat-leaf parsley stems
  • ¼ cup tarragon leaves
  • Equal parts of butter and flour for roux
  • Salt

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Put the saffron threads in the wine and let it infuse for 15 minutes.

Clean and debeard the mussels. In a large pan, heat the olive oil on medium-low heat. Add in the shallots and gently sweat until soft. Then toss in the garlic, parsley, and tarragon, and cook until aromatic. Turn the heat to high, and pour in the wine. Let the alcohol from the wine burn off and then place in the mussels. Place lid on pot and cook for 5 minutes or until mussels steam open. Turn off heat. Discard mussels that have not opened. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and keep the liquid aside. Place mussels back into pan and cover with lid, to keep warm.

In a small saucepan, melt 1 TBS butter and whisk in 1 TBS flour. Cook for one minute. Then add in strained mussel liquid (mussel liquor), whisking constantly, and season with salt.

For the Vegetables

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 cup snow pea leaves and shoots, washed and chopped
  • 1 lb fava beans (with outer shell)
  • 1 cup enoki mushrooms
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

In the meantime, boil a pot of salted water for the fava beans. Once water is boiling, cook until water reboils and quickly drain from water and place in an ice bath. Once cool, shell the fava beans from their shell and set aside.

In a non-stick pan, heat up the olive oil. Gently sweat the minced garlic and add in the snow pea shoots. Sauté for one minute and then add in enoki mushrooms. Add a few tablespoons of water and season with salt. When snow pea shoots and enoki are cooked, at the very end, add in the fava beans. Cook gently, just enough to reheat. Turn off heat and keep warm.

For the Mahi-Mahi Fish

  • 3 TBS clarified butter
  • Two ¼ lb mahi-mahi fillets (with skin)
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

In another large pan, heat up the clarified butter. Season mahi-mahi fillets generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put fillets skin-side down and press with a fish spatula immediately (because the fish will curl). Cook for 4-5 minutes so that the skin is nicely browned. Cook the other side of the fillets for one second and then remove from pan. Place in a tray, skin-side up, and place in the oven. Cook for 7-8 minutes, until fish flakes easily.


Spoon the vegetable mixture in a ring mold in the center of a plate. Top with a mahi-mahi fillet, place 5 mussels around the center, and spoon the velouté over the mussels. Serve with toasted bread and the rest of the mussels with the velouté.