Halibut with an Herb Vinaigrette. Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman; food styling for The Washington Post by Lisa Cherkasky

The cover image on Eric Ripert’s latest cookbook, “Seafood Simple,” is about as simple as can be. A piece of rosy salmon sits on a white plate on a white surface. The chef’s hands hover on either side: one holding a small dish of salt, the other sprinkling a delicate shower of crystals on the fillet.

Rather than featuring one of the gorgeous photos of finished dishes – and there are many beautiful ones from which to choose – the picture comes from the “how to season” section of the book.

That’s because Ripert, co-owner and chef at the storied Le Bernardin restaurant in New York City, wants this cookbook – his eighth – to take you on a journey and “convert you into a competent and confident seafood cook.” To that end, he has written a concise, thoughtful guide to selecting seafood, determining whether it is fresh and storing it safely. Step-by-step photos demonstrate how to fillet and skin fish, how to shuck oysters and clams, clean shrimp and split lobster.

Ripert then takes home cooks by the hand and guides them through nine major techniques applied to 85 recipes. The goal: “to take seafood from daunting to rewarding.”

“We broke down the book into chapters with techniques so people can rely on those techniques, and if they follow them, then it is almost idiot proof,” he said in a telephone interview. The techniques cover raw (cured and marinated); steamed; poached; fried; baked; sauteed; broiled; grilled and preserved.

His last book, “Vegetable Simple,” also shot by portrait photographer by Nigel Parry, encouraged cooks to elevate plants to the main component of the meal. His goal was for readers to flip through the book and find inspiration.


“Here it’s more, ‘I’m going to teach you something,'” he said. “You’re going to learn how to cook seafood.”

If someone were to cook their way through the book, Ripert said, “They’re going to be very confident and feel that they have progressed tremendously in their cooking.”

Despite the book’s title, Ripert admits that “cooking seafood, in truth, is not always that simple.” Two keys to success are securing the highest-quality seafood possible, which can be challenging depending on your budget and your proximity to water, and preparing it simply and carefully.

“All seafood is not equal,” he said. “If you buy mediocre products, the outcome, even if you are a genius, is going to be a mediocre result. Cooking for me starts with shopping, and then you have to know how to handle it.”

Among his tips:

• Find a fishmonger you can trust and build a relationship with that person.


• Buy fresh seafood the same day that you plan to prepare it.

• Use your eyes and nose to see whether it is fresh. Pass on any fish that has an odor: “I cannot overstate how important the power of smell is to differentiate between seafood that’s fresh and seafood that is past its prime.”

When people tell him they don’t cook fish because of the smell, he insists that is because the seafood is not fresh. “At Le Bernardin, we process a ton of fish, and (the restaurant) doesn’t smell like fish,” he said.

What if fresh seafood is to too difficult or expensive to secure? “It’s better to buy good frozen fish than bad fresh fish,” he said.

The next step is to select the proper cooking method. For example, poaching is not a good technique when cooking a meaty fish, such as tuna or swordfish, but it is great for flaky, lean, delicate fish, such as halibut.

“Tuna likes to be seared,” he said. “Halibut is delicate, so it’s beautiful poached. My favorite way to poach fish is in a thicker liquid, like a velouté.” The denser consistency enrobes the fish and traps its juices inside.


Velouté is most commonly known as a sauce made with a butter roux and broth. Here, Ripert uses flour, water, lemon and salt to create thick liquid for gently poaching a fillet.

“Hopefully, people will be like, ‘I have flour in my house. I’m going to try and let’s see.’ It’s really simple. When you remove it, you have a beautiful, shiny piece of fish.” Then you spoon over a vinaigrette – Ripert’s recommended recipe or your favorite.

How does he tell when the fish is cooked? Ripert has a foolproof method: Use a metal skewer. The fish should feel firm and a skewer inserted into the thickest part of it for 5 seconds should feel warm when touched to the wrist.

The cookbook has a playful side, with flavors from around the world, and has nods to tradition, too, such as the Lobster Thermidor recipe.

One decidedly American recipe is a pantry-friendly, sweet, bold sauce that you can whisk together in minutes to make his Barbecue Glazed Striped Bass: A broiled fillet is finished with a brush of sauce and given a quick second pass under the broiler. He serves that with a lightly dressed slaw. (That recipe works with cod, grouper and swordfish, as well.)

“I just want people not to be intimidated, but to be inspired. I want people to say, ‘Duh, it was not so difficult.’ ”


The poached halibut is lifted from the velouté. Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman; food styling for The Washington Post by Lisa Cherkasky

Halibut with an Herb Vinaigrette

4 servings

Total time: 35 minutes

Chef Eric Ripert recommends making a velouté, a poaching liquid of flour and water, for gently cooking halibut fillets, which he then serves topped with an herb vinaigrette. In his cookbook “Seafood Simple,” he explains why: “Halibut is one of the most delicate of fish, in both flavor and texture, and therefore should be handled gently and with great care – overcooking it completely destroys its natural characteristics.”

To test for doneness, he inserts a metal skewer through the thickest part of the fish until it meets a slight resistance. He leaves it for 5 seconds and then touches the skewer against his wrist. It should be just warm; if it’s hot, the halibut is overcooked, if cold, the fish is not done.

With the fish, Ripert suggests serving steamed jumbo asparagus, and it is also lovely with steamed bok choy, tender green beans or a lightly dressed green salad.


Make ahead: The velouté can be made up to 1 day in advance and reheated gently over low heat.

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Substitutions: You may substitute your favorite combination of herbs in place of the ones suggested.


For the velouté and fish

8 cups water, divided


1 cup all-purpose flour

Juice of 2 lemons

Fine salt

4 halibut fillets (6 ounces each), skinned

Freshly ground white pepper

For the vinaigrette


2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Fine salt

Freshly ground white pepper

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lightly packed chopped fines herbes, fresh chives, parsley, tarragon and/or chervil



Make the velouté: In a wide, shallow pot over high heat, bring 7 cups of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk the flour and 1 cup of water until smooth, then whisk the slurry into the boiling water to thicken; it should be the consistency of a milkshake. Add the lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low. The velouté should be hot but not simmering, about 150 degrees.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with a kitchen towel and place it near the stove. Sprinkle the halibut fillets lightly with white pepper, then gently place them in the velouté. Cook, turning the fish halfway through, until a metal skewer inserted into the thickest part of the fish for 5 seconds feels warm when touched to your wrist, 8 to 9 minutes.

Make the vinaigrette: While the fish is poaching, in a medium bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar, a pinch of each salt and white pepper, and the mustard until combined. Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify. Stir the chives, parsley, tarragon and chervil into the vinaigrette.

Using a slotted spatula, transfer the fillets to the prepared sheet pan to allow them to drain a bit. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then transfer the halibut to warm plates.


Spoon the vinaigrette over and around the fish, and serve immediately.

Nutrition per serving (1 fillet, 1/4 cup vinaigrette): 336 calories, 0g carbohydrates, 83mg cholesterol, 23g fat, 0g fiber, 32g protein, 3g saturated fat, 220mg sodium, 0g sugar

Barbecue Glazed Striped Bass. Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman; food styling for The Washington Post by Nicola Justine Davis

Barbecue Glazed Striped Bass

4 servings

Total time: 40 minutes

This glazed fish dish gets the broiler treatment, making it a great year-round way to enjoy the flavors of a backyard barbecue. The sauce from chef Eric Ripert is sweet and flavorful, so he recommends using a fish that’s firm and not too delicate, such as cod, grouper, swordfish or striped bass.


Make ahead: The slaw can be eaten right away, but it is best if refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours before serving.

Storage: Refrigerate the fish for up to 2 days; the slaw for up to 3 days.

Substitutions: No tarragon? >> parsley


For the coleslaw

1/4 cup mayonnaise


1 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1/2 head green cabbage (about 1 pound total) quartered, cored and very thinly sliced

1 medium carrot, coarsely grated


3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves

For the fish

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, plus more as needed

4 striped bass fillets (7 ounces each), skinned, patted dry



Make the coleslaw: In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, granulated sugar, salt and pepper. Add the cabbage, carrot, scallions and tarragon and gently toss together until the pieces are coated with dressing. Taste a piece of cabbage, and season with more salt and/or pepper, as needed. Refrigerate while you prepare the fish.

Make the fish: Position an oven rack 6 inches from the broiling element and preheat to 450 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, mustard powder, salt and pepper until well combined. Taste, and season with more salt and/or pepper as needed.

Lightly season the striped bass fillets on both sides with salt and white pepper. Place on a large, rimmed baking sheet and broil for 2 minutes. Gently turn the fish over and broil for another 2 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Using a spoon or pastry brush, cover the top and sides of the fish with the sauce and return it to the broiler. Cook for another 2 minutes, watching carefully until the sauce starts to caramelize slightly and a skewer inserted into the thickest part of the fish for 5 seconds feels warm when touched to the wrist. The fish should be opaque throughout.

Transfer the fish to plates and serve with the coleslaw on the side.

Nutrition per serving (1 fillet and 1 cup slaw): 391 calories, 24g carbohydrates, 164mg cholesterol, 16g fat, 4g fiber, 38g protein, 3g saturated fat, 932mg sodium, 18g sugar

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