“We write to taste life twice.” - Anaïs Nin
Friday night’s dinner. I need to taste it again, and again, and again. Simplicity is the only way I know how to describe it—to say it was intuitive is to imply that I would have just as easily thought up those dishes of my own accord and it simply isn’t true. Yet, I felt like I understood each one before I ever took a bite.
AM sat across from me at The London Plane and sunlight streamed through ceiling-tall windows off of Occidental Square. White coats worked diligently behind long counters spilling with ingredients, a wooden crate sat by the front door brimming with freshly cut peonies, and disks of house-made pastry chilled on the other side of a window filled walk-in. We ordered glasses of dry Rosé and I was already planning to recreate the meal at home.
It started with a sauce gribiche, generously spooned over a large serving plate and topped with shaved asparagus, wilted baby spinach leaves, and toasted breadcrumbs. A green, lemony mountain with the edges of the gribiche peeking from underneath leaves, the sharp notes of the sauce softened by julienned egg white, and rounded with an herbaceous kick. The bread crumbs gave a hard crunch against the earthy spinach and there was no going back. I was already smiling at my plate.
Did I know exactly what a sauce gribiche was before we sat down to eat? Nope. I was just about to stumble through an answer for AM when I decided to give it up and hand it off to our much more capable waitress. You know how sometimes you can harbor a feeling for a word, but making its definition explicit is outside your ability? It was that. I’d call it a mix between a mayonnaise and a tartar sauce--a creamy emulsion of neutral oil and hard-boiled egg, fortified with capers, vinegar soaked shallots, minced cornichons, and whatever herbs are on hand. It would make a fabulous potato salad, elevate any roasted vegetable, and I’ll be damned if I don’t put it on everything for the next few weeks. And no, I am not sorry for it, because calling it a “sauce gribiche” makes it acceptable in the same way calling it “aioli” is somehow different than calling it mayonnaise.
And then of course, the second dish was an entirely different, yet equally satisfying beast. Citrus butter glazed black cod sitting beautifully atop a bed of roasted radishes and fennel, and then the whole thing was topped with sautéed pea vines and a pesto made from radish greens. I could not believe how smoky the radishes were—fresh from the garden, blanched, and roasted quickly. Part of me feels blasphemous for saying so, but the radishes stole the whole show. Perfectly tender and flaky cod, be damned. Nothing can stand in the way of an ingredient so bold in its simplicity.
We finished our meal with a beautiful rhubarb galette, nestled on top of some soft cream, and covered in candied almonds—the tartness of the rhubarb and the floral nature of the almond were almost conspiring on the plate. I couldn’t quite tell where one finished and the other began. We were both so pleased to be ending the meal on a not-too-sweet note.
Needless to say, this salad needs to find its way into your home (and your stomach). If you’re ever in Seattle, give me a ring. I won’t be turning down a chance to go back any time soon. And also, just because I am proud of them, check out these dishes I made last week:
Shaved Asparagus and Spinach Salad with Sauce Gribiche
Sauce Gribiche adapted from oragnette
For the sauce gribiche:
2 shallots, minced
2 T. red or white wine vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 c. neutral oil (think canola or a mild olive oil; don’t use extra virgin)
1 handful chopped dill
1 large bunch chopped tarragon
2 T. capers, rinsed and dried, chopped
4 cornichons, finely chopped
For the salad:
2 slices of day old bread
2 T. olive oil
1lb fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 large bunch fresh asparagus
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Start with the sauce gribiche—combine the minced shallots with the vinegar and let them mingle while you take care of the rest.
Bring a large pot of salted water to just barely a simmer (you’ll use this water for your asparagus later)—put the egg in and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat again and simmer for four minutes. Fish out the egg and place it in a big bowl of ice water (you’ll use this for the asparagus later too!) until cool enough to handle.
Carefully peel the egg and put in a mixing bowl. Add the mustard and a bit of salt and mash it all together. Very slowly whisk the oil into the egg mixture until thick and full of body—if it is loose, keep whisking. Stir in herbs, capers, cornichons, and the shallot and vinegar mixture. Season with salt and set aside.
Now on to the salad: In a food processor, pulse your bread slices until they become coarse bread crumbs. With processor running, pour in 2 T. olive oil and run until crumbs are uniformly coated in oil.
Spread breadcrumbs in the bottom of a skillet, salt and pepper to taste, and toast on medium heat until golden brown and crunchy. Remove breadcrumbs from skillet (to stop them from toasting further) and set aside.
Bring your pot of water back to a boil. Add the asparagus and blanch for four minutes. Transfer the asparagus to the ice water to stop the cooking process. Dry asparagus well. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into long ribbons and place into a large bowl (you could probably use a mandolin here, but holding on to the little buggers seems like a challenge I don’t want to partake in). Add the spinach to the bowl and toss the mixture with 2 T. of lemon juice. Set aside.
Spread the sauce gribiche over the surface of your serving plate and place the asparagus and spinach mixture on top. Sprinkle generously with breadcrumbs and, if you’d like, some flaky sea salt. Serve with more sauce gribiche on the side.