Friday, 13 January 2012


How about them photography skills ...

"The James Beard Cookbook," authored by the American chef and food authority James Beard, was published in 1959. It was revised and republished in 1970, and I am lucky enough to own one of the 1970 editions. James Beard brought French cooking to 1950's America. His legacy lives on in his numerous writings and cookbooks, and in the James Beard Foundation and its annual Beard awards. 

The jacket is long gone, but otherwise, the book is in very good condition.
It's nice to have one of his cookbooks around as a reference, and once in a while, I peruse its pages. Recently one of the recipes caught my attention: "fish in béchamel sauce." I decided to cook it, but I thought it would be an excellent idea to include mushrooms and crab meat in the béchamel!

Just a few minutes before sitting down to write this post I checked Beard's recipe once more. I noticed a "variations" section below the recipe in which Beard clearly states that both mushrooms and shellfish can be added to the béchamel. I had most likely read this ... Then forgot about it ... And claimed the idea as my own! Well, such are my adventures here in suburbia. Thrills and chills! Mushrooms and shellfish!  


For the Béchamel sauce:
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 and 3/4 cups whole milk, warmed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup nice crab meat or you can even use shrimp
For the Halibut:

  • 1 bottle of fruity white wine
  • a few sprigs of parsley
  • a slice of lemon
  • a pinch of dried tarragon
  • 4 halibut fillets, about 1-inch thick
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • a few dashes of cayenne pepper


Make the Béchamel sauce:
  • Saute the shallots in the vegetable oil until they become translucent. 
  • Add the mushrooms, the thyme, and some salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and begin to give off their liquid. Set aside. 
  • In a 2-quart saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. 
  • Add the flour and whisk until smooth, but not browned.  
  • Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 10 minutes. 
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese, the Dijon mustard and some black pepper to taste.  
  • Add the crab meat and the mushrooms with their liquid and stir to combine.
For the halibut:
  • Preheat the broiler. Grease a baking dish that will comfortably fit the halibut and set it aside. 
  • In a large saucepan, add the wine, parsley, lemon, and tarragon, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the halibut. Cover the pan and poach until the halibut flesh is opaque, about 8 minutes. As you are cooking the fish, make sure the liquid doesn't come back to the boil. 
  • When the halibut has cooked use a spatula to carefully remove it from the saucepan and place it into the prepared baking dish. 
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Spoon the béchamel sauce over the fish and top with the Parmesan cheese.  
  • Dot with butter, sprinkle the cayenne over the sauce and broil until the sauce appears lightly golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.