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Fresh From The Market Seasonal Cooking from Laurent Tourondel

Jordan Wright to Washington Examiner
September 2010

Laurent Tourondel’s latest book touts the merits of local farmers markets. (Photo Courtesy of Wiley)

Laurent Tourondel’s latest book touts the merits of local farmers markets. (Photo Courtesy of Wiley)

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, as I like to tell it, we all ate what was in season. It was a time when few people had refrigeration in rural areas in the United States and in many countries around the world they still do not. The home kitchen had its icebox back then, a hulking wooden closet with heavy steel latches, not much more than a cooler really, that kept milk, eggs and butter chilled but wasn’t good for much else. All other foodstuffs were purchased daily at the local market or delivered. Each Monday the iceman would pull into the driveway, snatch a block of ice off his truck with huge iron tongs, and heave it into the icebox through an outside door on the kitchen porch. We still had one back in the 50’s before it was converted into a refrigerator.

It was typical to wait ten months before tucking into a garden-fresh tomato or a handful of cherries. There were no hydroponically grown super-veggies back then and the advent of summer meant more than an end of school days and a dip in the ocean. Winters were devoted to pining for sweet corn and fresh greens and dreaming of ways to prepare them. I know this sounds austere, but such was the way of life.

Before the dawning of the Kelvinator, we could only count on frozen fish or meat and Bird’s Eye peas to tide us over. We spent fall and winter dreaming of what most of us now take for granted in the supermarkets of today. With the advent of refrigerated shipping, transcontinental flights and mega-farms we now live in a world where we can feast on everything from corn and watermelon in winter and spring lamb all year round. While snowflakes fall we cut up fresh papaya and strawberries for breakfast and cook up Chilean sea bass for dinner. Is there anything left for us to dream about?

Now we can turn to Laurent Tourondel for seasonal direction in the kitchen. Known for the popular BLT Restaurants (Bistro Laurent Tourondel), he was named Bon Appetit’s “Restauranteur of the Year” in 2007. He has worked at Relais and Chateaux’s three Michelin-starred La Maison Troisgros in France and at Cello in New York City. This summer he opened the casual outpost, LT Burger, in tony Sag Harbor, NY and still serves as Executive Chef at Brasserie Ruhlmann in New York City. His first two very successful cookbooks were Bistro Laurent Tourondel and Go Fish.

In his third and latest book, penned with Charlotte March, Fresh From The Market – Seasonal Cooking from Laurent Tourondel, (Wiley), Tourondel accords the seasons their respective bounty and exhorts his readers to do the same. He adheres elegantly to the philosophy held by many of our best chefs to let a few choice ingredients drive the attitude of the dish. As a result his book is a primer on cooking in the simple French way of allowing an entire platter of in-season green beans with walnuts, a green salad and baguette with cheese to be a meal. And while dessert may be optional, wine is most assuredly not.

When I first read this book my impulse was to toss out a good chunk of my library, so taken have I been by its merits. But before you think that it is only about what you can grow in your kitchen garden or purchase from your local farmers market, you will need to be more expansive in your thinking. For above all Tourondel is a fine French chef, accustomed to working with truffles, partridge and foie gras. So dream accordingly, if you will.

Photo of book cover - All photo credits to Quentin Bacon

Photo of book cover - All photo credits to Quentin Bacon

In a recent conversation with Tourondel he spoke of his new book, a hopeful meeting with Escoffier and the future of the American table.

Jordan Wright – I found your latest cookbook to be beautifully presented and replete with exquisitely tweaked French classics. What was your inspiration?

Laurent Tourondel – Really I like the seasonal product more than anything else. I was trying to create something fun for people to read and cook from.

JW – I understand you like to follow the evolving trends in food. What do you see for dining in the near future? And what ingredients will be driving your dishes?

LT – I think better and fresher products from the market. I think the evolution is about more organic product and to eat in a simpler way, with less preparation…to make dishes with a clean finish. People are asking for healthy food. Not necessarily vegan or vegetarian but healthier.

JW – What are your greatest day-to-day challenges?

LT – To cook for my girlfriend! But seriously, to teach people about what I do. That is the challenge of today.

JW – When you’re at home what do you crave the most?

LT – Cheese…a lot! And peanuts.

JW – If you were trying to impress a beautiful woman what would you prepare?

LT – Something light I think…perhaps my steamed lobster with a ginger lime broth.

JW – What famous or historical personage would you like to dine with?

LT – Henry IV, because he was crazy and he had great parties!

JW – If Escoffier came into your kitchen today what would you like to ask him?

LT – A million questions. I’d want to know what he thought of some of the newer ingredients he would be unfamiliar with and how he would choose to use them. And also I’d like to cook for the guy of course.

JW – What advice would you give to a new restaurant owner?

LT – Try to give people what they want, don’t just do the restaurant for yourself.

JW – What advice would you give to recent culinary graduates?

LT – Give yourself a destination of where you want your culinary career to go. Don’t go everywhere.

JW – Can you tell me about your new cookbook?

LT – I’m very excited about doing a seasonal cookbook. It was a long process because we had to do it season by season to obtain the right ingredients. I think it came out great!

Recipe from Fresh From The Market by Laurent Tourondel

Steamed Lobster in Gingered Lime and Scallion Broth with Baby Bok Choy

Steamed Lobster in Gingered Lime-Scallion Broth with Baby Bok Choy from Fresh From The Market - photo credit Quentin Bacon

Steamed Lobster in Gingered Lime-Scallion Broth with Baby Bok Choy from Fresh From The Market - photo credit Quentin Bacon

The combination of ginger and lime results in a truly enchanting flavor, which is well suited for both savory and sweet dishes alike. This very light broth pairs quite well with other shellfish, such as shrimp and mussels, or firmer white fish.


6 live lobsters, 2 pounds each
1/2 cup Chablis or another dry white wine
3 cups Vegetable Stock (page 304)
6 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons matchstick-size strips peeled fresh ginger
11/2 tablespoons ginger juice (see page 96)
6 baby bok choy
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Zest of 2 limes
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Prepare the broth

Holding the lobster body in 1 hand and the tail in the other hand, twist the lobster until the body
and tail separate.

Repeat with the remaining 5 lobsters. Using the back of a chef’s knife, crack the claws off the
lobster bodies just below the knuckles. Reserve the bodies for making lobster stock or freeze
them for another use.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the lobster claws and cook
until the shells become bright red and the claw meat is just barely cooked through, about 8
minutes. Transfer the claws to a bowl of ice water.

Once cool, remove the claw meat from the shells.
Using a chef’s knife, cut the lobster tails in half lengthwise and discard any intestines that
may be clinging to the tail.

Leave the meat in the shells. Bring the Chablis to boil in a large saucepan. Add the lobster tails,
flesh side down, and the vegetable stock. Cover and cook until the lobster meat is just barely
cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Remove the tails from the broth.

Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the broth into a clean medium saucepan over medium heat.

Add the shitake mushrooms, ginger, and ginger juice to the broth and simmer until the ginger
is soft, about 3 minutes. Strain the broth again through a fine-mesh strainer and into a large
saucepan, reserving the mushrooms and ginger.

Finish the broth

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the bok choy and cook until
crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Immediately transfer the bok choy to a bowl of ice water and allow to cool.
Using an immersion blender, blend the cold butter into the strained broth until emulsified.
Return the reserved mushrooms and ginger, lobster claw meat, and blanched bok choy to the
broth along with the scallions, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, and cayenne and continue to cook
over low heat for 2 minutes.

To serve

Divide the lobster tails among 6 large shallow bowls. Arrange the claw meat and 1 bok choy
over each lobster tail. Spoon the sauce and vegetables over the lobster tails and claws and serve.

Wine suggestion

Serve this dish with an exotic white Rhone blend that offers rich flavors of guava, minerals,
and Asian spices, such as Tensley, “Blanc,” 2007, Santa Barbara County, California.

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