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Recipe: Chef Andrew Longres of The American poaches halibut in oil for perfect fillets

Andrew Longres grew up in Liberty and got his start in the culinary world making doughnuts at age 14.

After culinary school in Arizona, he returned to the Kansas City area to work at Starker’s Restaurant, 40 Sardines, The American Restaurant and Bluestem. In 2017, Longres returned to The American as executive chef.

The American is a national culinary icon that put Kansas City on the culinary map with James Beard Award-winning chefs Michael Smith, Debbie Gold and Celina Tio. The restaurant atop Crown Center opened 45 years ago with the legendary James Beard on the payroll as a consultant. Two years ago, the elegant space with spectacular views of the downtown skyline transitioned into an event space, but its high standards of dining excellence remain.

“I’ve never had a typical day,” Longres says of his work, which can include making 2,000 macaron shells or butchering a whole animal.

“Everyone has a problem and it’s my job to solve it,” he adds.

Case in point: What’s the best way to cook fish to perfection? Longres swears by the classic French technique of poaching in olive oil.

Swimming in oil

For Longres, swimming in oil isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Poaching fish or seafood in olive oil is a technique that seems to go against conventional philosophy: “If it swims, don’t put it back in the water.”

Yet, simmering the fish in a bath of warm olive and canola oil yields perfectly cooked results, preserving the color and texture of the fish while adding flavor without overcooking.

Chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley — where Longres once worked — poaches salmon in oil to retain its intense pink color. The fish may appear raw even though it is cooked through.

Longres likes halibut, a spring delicacy graced with a spring garlic velouté, one of four French “mother sauces.” But if halibut is unavailable, you may use another firm-textured white fish, such as sole or cod.

The technique requires brining the fish which prevents the milky, white proteins (albumin) from splotching the outside of the fillet. The fish is then air-dried in the refrigerator to remove excess moisture. Finally, the fish is poached in oil.

Use only olive oil and you will have bitter results. Extra-virgin is suggested for this recipe, but since you’re immersing the fish in oil, don’t choose the most expensive brand.

OLIVE OIL-POACHED HALIBUT with SPRING GARLIC VELOUTE

Makes 2 servings

For the halibut:

4 cups (1 quart) cold water

¼ cup kosher salt

1 lemon, sliced into thin wheels

1 sprig thyme

1 clove crushed whole garlic, skin attached

2 (6-ounce) halibut fillets, fresh not previously frozen, sole or cod may be substituted

1 cup olive oil

1 cup canola oil

Pinch of flaky sea salt

Velouté

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 stalk of green garlic, removed and sliced very thin (about ¼ cup) (regular garlic may also be substituted)

1 small shallot, minced

1 small Yukon gold potato, peeled and sliced thin

2 tablespoons white vermouth

2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

Fresh lemon juice, to taste

Pea tendrils, shaved carrots and microgreens, for garnish

For the fish: In a non-reactive pan, whisk water and salt until the salt dissolves. Add lemon, thyme and garlic. Place halibut in the brine for 30 minutes.

Remove fillet from the liquid and discard the brine. Place the halibut on a paper towel and dry uncovered in the refrigerator; do not wrap or the fish will get too salty. Leave uncovered for up to 24 hours.

When ready to cook the fish, heat the oil in a 4-quart or pot wide enough to hold two fillets; use a thermometer to make sure that the oil does not go over or under 140 degrees. Add the fish with the nicest side up, or presentation side. (The oil may not submerge the fish, but that is OK.) Cook the fish in the oil until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Remove fish from the oil and drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle filet with a pinch of sea salt.

For the velouté: In a shallow saucepan over medium-low heat, add olive oil and heat till a small amount of smoke is coming from the pan. Add the green garlic, shallots, and potatoes, and saute until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. (Do not allow vegetables to brown or the sauce will become off-white.)

Deglaze the pan with the vermouth and reduce by half.

Add the cream and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through and the sauce is reducing by half, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Place sauce in a blender and blend from low to high until it is smooth. Season with the lemon juice and adjust the thickness to desired consistency with a tablespoon or two of fresh cold water to achieve desired consistency.

For an elegant presentation, put velouté in a teapot and serve tableside. Serve fish and sauce with spring pea puree and carrots (find the recipe at kansascity.com/spaces) and garnish with pea tendrils, shaved carrots and microgreens.

SPRING PEA PUREE and GLAZED CARROTS

Makes 2 servings

Peas:

1 gallon of water

1 cup salt

1 cup sugar

2 cups fresh peas

5 large leaves of fresh basil (stem removed)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Carrots:

1 cup water

3 large carrots, peeled and cut on an angle into even pieces

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon sugar

1 cup water

White wine vinegar, to taste

For the peas: In a large pot, add the water, salt and sugar, and bring to a boil. Blanch the peas and basil until the peas are tender all the way though, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. (If using frozen peas, only for 45-50 seconds.) Strain peas and place in the blender, reserving a tablespoon for garnish. Starting on low and working to high, blend the peas until smooth and thick. Once smooth, place the puree in bowl fitted over another bowl with ice underneath to cool without diluting puree and whisk in the olive oil. The puree will be smooth, shiny and very green. Season to balance the puree with salt and sugar to taste.

For the carrots: Fill a shallow pot with butter, water, salt, and sugar. Add carrots and simmer over medium-low heat for 2 minutes, or until tender and the liquid is reduced, creating a butter sauce. Add vinegar to taste and serve with olive oil-poached fish.

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