One chef, one ingredient: red mullet by Frédéric Duca
Frédéric Duca, the chef at L'Instant D'Or in Paris, was named Chef of the Year 2013 by the Pudlo Guide, a reference in French gastronomy. He also received his first Michelin star in 2013. He chose to highlight a fish that is particularly prized in Mediterranean cuisine: red mullet.
What led you to choose this ingredient?
Frédéric Duca: Red mullet is a fish that symbolizes the South of France. It represents Mediterranean cuisine and the flavors that go along with it. It is the fish that best represents my cuisine, probably because I learned to prepare it very early on.
What is your best culinary memory associated with this ingredient?
FD: My best memory associated with red mullet dates from when I worked at the Petit-Nice Passédat in Marseille alongside Gérald Passédat. The fisherman arrived by boat to bring us the fresh red mullet he had just caught. All we had to do was cook the fish for the lunchtime guests; it was wonderful!
When is this ingredient in season?
FD: The best season to eat red mullet is from June to December.
What is the best way to prepare it? Can you share a recipe?
FD: In my opinion, the best way to cook red mullet is to roast it whole in the oven.
A recipe? Red mullet fillets in a thin lemon thyme pastry tart with pine nut vinaigrette. Remove the fillets from the red mullet and cook them in a pan, skin side down. Place them on a disk of savory shortcrust pastry flavored with lemon thyme, which has first been baked and covered with caramelized onions. Just before serving, decorate the plate around the tart with black olive chutney and drizzle pine nut vinaigrette over the tart.
What other ingredients can be combined with red mullet to delight and surprise the taste buds?
FD: To wow your guests, serve red mullet with a pumpkin puree, a few caramelized hazelnuts and a slice of crispy bacon. A guaranteed success!
What are the most common mistakes made when preparing this ingredient?
FD: A mistake to avoid: red mullet is a very fragile fish. It is important to scale the fish very delicately so as not to remove the skin and damage the flesh. The simplest way to do this is to remove the scales with your fingers under a thin stream of running water.
To ensure that red mullet is cooked perfectly, check that the flesh is still slightly pink around the bone.
How do you offer this ingredient on your current menu?
FD: At L'Instant D'Or, I offer it in a thin pastry tart.
What wine (or other alcohol) is best married with this ingredient?
FD: Since this is a fish with a rather strong flavor, I would choose a Château de Pibarnon rosé wine.