Carl Thorne-Thomsen, chef-owner of Story in Prairie Village, puts soft-shell crab from Maryland and the Carolinas on the menu for a few, oh-so-brief weeks. December is the last month he can get fresh grouper until next June, so he makes the most of this delectable fish.
“The best way to find great seafood is to develop a relationship with a reputable fishmonger,” says Thorne-Thomsen. “This is especially important if you don’t buy a lot of fish and are not always able to discern good quality from not-so-good quality. At the restaurant we have bought from many of the same people since we opened. They know we want the best quality and are willing to pay for it, and they steer us away from product that has been ‘on hand’ too long.”
With cold-weather vegetables, an elegant sauce and a festive garnish of red pomegranate seeds and green leaves, Thorne-Thomsen adds his own contemporary sensibility and light touch.
For the Citrus Sauce Base
Juice from 4 oranges
Juice from 2 limes
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped (available in the produce section of better grocery stores or Asian markets)
1 tomato, chopped
1 tsp. cumin seeds
½ tsp. chile flakes
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 fresh bay leaves
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil. Reduce to a simmer and let it go for 20 minutes. Strain. Reserve the liquid; discard other ingredients.
For the finished dish
8-10 cauliflower florets
8-10 Brussels sprouts, halved, dark outer leaves removed and reserved
Grape seed or canola oil
4 (5-ounce) grouper filets, patted dry with paper towels
Salt to taste
½ tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
½ cup chicken stock
1/4 cup citrus sauce base
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Additionally heat two large sauté pans. Drop the cauliflower into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon and setting aside. Add the Brussels sprouts to the water and cook for 4 minutes, then remove and set aside. Pat the vegetables dry with a paper towel.
While the Brussels sprouts cook, add oil to one of the sauté pans over medium-high heat. Season the grouper on both sides with salt, and add filets to the hot pan. Cook until the first side is golden brown, about 3 minutes, then flip the pieces and slide the whole pan into the oven.
Roast for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove the fish from the oven and keep warm.
While the fish is roasting, add oil to the other sauté pan. Add the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and cook until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and shallot and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock and citrus sauce base and cook until reduced by three-fourths, about 5 minutes.
While the liquid reduces, blanch the reserved Brussels sprout leaves for 10 to 15 seconds in the boiling water.
To finish the sauce, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter.
To serve, divide the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and sauce between four plates. Top with a grouper filet. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and Brussels sprouts leaves.