The Balthazar Cookbook, from the folks who founded the New York restaurant of the same name, is one of our favourites. The recipes are not overly demanding and they are very reliable. We love this roasted halibut dinner- delicious fresh fish; an earthy base (literally, a base) provided by the roasted potatoes, and a beautifully balanced topping of chopped fresh tomatoes punched up with "pickled" shallots, and a satisfying crunch of toasted sliced almonds.
One thing about this volume (which we've noticed before in other cookbooks from the kitchens of restaurants) is that they often rely on the use of several basic "house recipes", which they group together in a section at the end of the cookbook. This can create a hazard for the unsuspecting or unprepared cook- the shock of realizing after you've begun preparations at 9:00PM that the little confit on page 242 requires 45 minutes on the stove top! Well, we confess to having taken a few time-saving shortcuts last evening, and we don't think the results were diminished in any way. Firstly and foremost, we did not bake the potatoes in the oven. We gave them a short steam, then finished them of in a sautée pan. Being farm-fresh fingerlings, they were absolutely delicious. Secondly, we did not spend 45 minutes gently reducing our sweet and sour shallot mixture- more like 15 minutes in a larger diameter saucepan. And finally, we never remove the skins from our tomatoes. If someone wants to do that for us when we're paying for dinner, then go ahead, knock yourselves out! But chez nous, we always eat our tomato skins!
We paired our dinner with a Niagara white from Malivoire. The "Guilty Men" of the label refers to the fact that the winemakers once vowed to never produce a blended bottle, but are now guilty of recanting and doing just that. This is a nice blend of Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. The Riesling allowed this wine to pair well with the sweet and sour shallots, we thought.
So here it is- simplicity on a plate, really. Golden browned potatoes, crushed rather than mashed, the luscious roasted halibut, topped with fresh tomatoes from the "balcony farm" which have been "infused" with a confit of sweet and sour chopped shallots (simmered in sherry vinegar and white and brown sugars long enough for it to reduce to a syrup), all sprinkled with toasted sliced almonds and fresh Italian parsley.