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Chef's Day Off

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Alain Ducasse
ALAIN DUCASSE AT THE ESSEX HOUSE

Dream Weekend: Rien faire. Doing nothing. When there are no guests at the Bastide de Moustiers, my inn in Provence, I go there and invite friends. It's my country house -- which is why I originally bought it. Chef Shopping: I love going to flea markets -- now I have enough antiques to furnish another hotel. I try not to go somewhere where I'll bump into my clients.

John Dory Provençal

3 John Dory, about 11/2 to 13/4 pounds each (black bass or grouper can be substituted)

20 baby fennel

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

31/2 cups chicken stock

3 sprigs dried fennel

1 bunch basil (half left whole, half finely chopped)

3 tomatoes, sliced into rounds

1 lemon, thinly sliced

4 ounces olive-oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, halved

30 pitted olives

5 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Clean the fish without removing the head. Trim each fennel to just above the bulb, and wash. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil into a saucepan, add baby fennel, and season with a little salt and pepper. Add about half of the chicken stock, and cook gently until the stock has reduced.

Put the sprigs of dried fennel on a large oiled baking dish, and scatter the unchopped basil over them. Lay the tomato slices on top, alternating with slices of lemon. Season the John Dory inside and outside with salt and pepper, and place on the bed of vegetables. Pour the remaining chicken stock over the fish, and bake for about 15 minutes, basting with the pan juices regularly. Remove the fish and vegetables to a warm platter, and cover with foil. Strain the cooking juices from the pan, add to a saucepan, and reduce slightly. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the olives. Return the sauce to a boil; add the cooked fennel, butter, and a little olive oil. Add the remaining chopped basil.

Just before serving, delicately remove the fish's skin. Coat each fillet with the sauce, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Green Asparagus With Parmesan Shavings

36 green asparagus

1/4 cup coarse salt

Coarse sea salt and coarse-ground black pepper

1 shallot, minced

3 tablespoons aged red-wine vinegar

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

11/2-ounce block Parmesan

Peel the asparagus. Divide into 3 equal bundles and tie with string. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the coarse salt. Place the asparagus bundles in the boiling water, and cook for about 5 minutes, depending on thickness -- the asparagus should remain firm. Drain the spears in a colander, and immediately run them under very cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and place on a cloth.

Prepare the vinaigrette in a salad bowl starting with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the shallot and wine vinegar to the bowl, then stir in the oil until combined. Shave the Parmesan, using a mandoline or a potato peeler, and season.

Reheat the asparagus for a few seconds in boiling water. Strain and place on a kitchen towel. Divide the asparagus among 6 plates, drizzle with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the Parmesan shavings and a little coarse-ground black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Geoffrey Zakarian
TOWN

Dream Weekend: I love weekends in the city in the summer. Because it's quiet, you can see any movie, and you can walk into any restaurant without reservations. Secret Weapon: There's a lot to a pantry. You can make a lot of stuff if you do a great job stocking it. The perfect oils, Spanish canned tuna, and canned mackerel. There's absolutely nothing wrong with prepared food -- I don't have to prove to my friends I can cook. Saturday Rules: You don't want to talk shop. You just don't. Though eventually, you end up talking about it anyway.

Spicy African Chicken

2 4-pound chickens, each cut into 6 to 8 pieces

1/2 cup Perks Peri-Peri African Heat sauce (available at Stop and Shop and Food Emporium)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 lime

1 small handful of mint

1 small handful of cilantro

Optional: French bread and butter

In a large oven-to-table baking dish, toss the chicken in the Peri-Peri sauce and pepper until it's coated. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove chicken from the refrigerator, place directly into the oven, and bake for 1 hour or until done, basting occasionally with the marinade in the pan. Squeeze the lime juice over the chicken just before serving, and sprinkle with mint and cilantro. Serve in the baking dish, along with buttered, grilled French bread and tomato-and-watermelon salad (recipe below).

Heirloom-Tomato-and-Watermelon Salad

6 to 8 ripe heirloom tomatoes, varying in size, at room temperature

1 small to medium yellow watermelon (about the size of a cantaloupe)

1 small to medium red watermelon (about the size of a cantaloupe)

1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cracked coriander seed

Malden sea salt and cracked black pepper

1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh

1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped Italian parsley

Cut the tomatoes into chunks of varying sizes (about 1 to 1 and 1/2 inches long). Core watermelons, and chop into cubes of varying sizes (about 1 to 1 and 1/2 inches).

Combine tomatoes, watermelon, oil, coriander, and salt and pepper in a large bowl, and gently toss, taking care not to bruise the fruit.

Sprinkle with fresh dill and parsley, and serve immediately.


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