The fish cooked slowly in low-temperature oil is served on the plate like a spring bouquet with vegetables that vary in aroma and texture.
"Confit of splendid alfonsino with seasonal vegetables" is a dish that mirrors the spirit of Tadashi Michino, whose career spans 40 years. The 64-year-old is the chef of Michino Le Tourbillon, a French restaurant in Osaka.
Michino purchases his splendid alfonsino from a fish shop in Osaka that he has done business with for years. The vegetables come from farmers in Notojima island in Ishikawa Prefecture and Mihara in Hiroshima Prefecture, while the glass plate is created by a young artist based in Fukui Prefecture.
In all cases, he had encountered the people during trips and wished to "use what these people had made."
When he was young, Michino was busy working in the kitchen and most of his interest was directed overseas. The rural areas of Japan were close, yet far. However, in recent years, it is a trend for chefs to open restaurants in locations that offer good ingredients.
Michino began visiting these chefs and talking to the producers of the ingredients as well.
"I want to be stimulated. Although I decided to continue working in Osaka, what I gained during my trips is reflected in my dishes. And I do get to find good ingredients."
It has become customary for Michino to head to Hokkaido in the autumn on a fishing trip.
He visits a chef, a younger friend, in Asahikawa, and after cooking a special dinner for an event together, they head to the Teshiogawa river at daybreak to catch "ito" (Japanese huchen), known to some as the "phantom fish."
They go in the water and drop their lines until dusk. Some years they get to hook a fish, in others they don’t. But they return to their restaurants feeling refreshed.
What kind of dish is Michino hoping to make in the future?
"A dish like a dream" is his answer.
He questions the recent trend that puts emphasis on how well-known the ingredients are or the prices.
"I want the world of gastronomy to have splendor," he said.
Once again, polished knives and forks are placed on the crisply ironed tablecloth on which dishes carrying palatable dreams are served with a "bon appetit."
With his inexhaustible curiosity as the engine, the chef’s life goes on.
2 slices splendid alfonsino (kinmedai) (or sea bream [tai] or Japanese Spanish mackerel [sawara]) Some vegetables (petit vert, "koshin" (red core) daikon radish, yellow turnip and others)
Onion chutney (Amount easy to make: 1 onion, 1 Tbsp olive oil, some honey, salt)
Yuzu dressing (Amount easy to make: 1 yuzu citrus, some honey and salt, 50 cc olive oil)
METHODConfit is a French cooking method where the ingredient is simmered in low-temperature oil.
On the previous day, cover fish with salt weighing 1 percent of its weight and lay in flat container. Cover with plastic wrap and leave overnight in fridge.
Pat surface of fish dry, cut into 3-cm-wide pieces and place in heatproof container. Pour oil (not listed above) that covers fish and place aluminum foil as lid. Cook in steamer for five minutes. Leave fish in container to cool. Place in fridge.
To make chutney, thickly slice onion, place on plate, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 to 3 minutes until tender. When somewhat cool, place in food processor and mash with olive oil and bit of honey. Season with salt.
To make dressing, squeeze yuzu juice in bowl and add bit of honey. Pour olive oil in small amounts while mixing with whisk. Season with salt.
Cut vegetables into appropriate size. Turnip is served fresh. Cook other vegetables in hot water with a bit of salt until slightly crunchy. Remove and cool.
Place a spoonful of chutney on center of dish, place fish as well as vegetables mixed with small amount of dressing. Pour dressing over all.
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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Watashi no Ryori column