Steve Black — Fishing Passion Inspires Culinary Creations
By Zuzana Prochazka
When I caught my first fish, I was hooked myself," says Steve Black, executive chef of the Sheraton Hotel and Marina in San Diego, California. "I was always an outdoor kid, but I was a hunter and an archer and never got to do much fishing growing up in inland New Jersey. Then, when I was cooking at the Sheraton in Boston in the 1980s, I heard a couple of guys talking about bluefish and joined them on a rental boat for a day of fishing. I loved it." It wasn't long before Black bought his first boat, a 17-foot Boston Whaler centerconsole. "It really pounded, but I was in my 20s and could take it," he laughs. "The East Coast is great for quick trips, and you can get to good fishing in just a couple of miles."
Black graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island and developed his culinary skills before heading, in 1990, to Strasbourg, France, where he worked with his French father-in-law alongside several five-star Michelin chefs. "I thought I knew how to cook," he says. "But everything over there tasted amazing. You really work around the seasons and what's fresh." Armed with that insight, he returned to the U.S. in 1992, picked up his Boston Whaler from his parents' house, and towed it cross-country to San Diego where he's been for the past 20 years. He's since upgraded to a 25-foot Whaler named Sweet Revenge, partly because of the model name, and partly because he considers it a "sweet boat." He keeps it at the marina behind the hotel and goes out whenever he can.
"Along with a few weekends, we plan three, five-day trips each year," says Black. "My favorite place is Pyramid Cove on San Clemente Island." It's not a small undertaking to put together a multi-day trip on a 25-foot boat, 65 miles offshore. The West Coast is exposed to the full fetch of the Pacific with few places to hide from the weather, and nowhere to stop for supplies once out. But one of his favorite things in boating is planning for the trip, provisioning, and working out the navigation. He puts aboard 50 extra gallons of gas and lots of ice and water. "You can't forget anything because there's nowhere to stop." The quintessential optimist, Black only stocks two steaks (for the first night) and lots of produce. After that, it's all up to him and his friend to catch enough for fish tacos, ceviche, a fish fry, and maybe even some chowder — all cooked aboard, fresh from the sea. He can recall every detail of every trip and what he cooked.
His fishing-inspired recipes appear on the Sheraton menus, as well as in fishing magazines and the websites he writes for, and he's cooked for celebrities such as Richard Dreyfuss, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Hal Holbrook and the late Dixie Carter (two avid sailors themselves). Lobster with avocado salad, and salmon with braised cabbage and red wine sauce are some original recipes he's published. He likes to use local yellowtail, dorado, and halibut. With one of his children off to college soon, he's put his next boat purchase on hold. "I'd really like one more Boston Whaler, a 27-footer with good deck space," he says. "But college first." Instead he says he intends to continue enjoying Sweet Revenge for quick getaways.
Chef Steve Black's Exclusive Recipes!
6 Portions, Salmon Fillet-6 ounces each
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 TBSP. Your Favorite Seasoning Salt Mix
1/2 Cup White Wine
4 oz. Sweet Butter
1. Drizzle the Salmon with some Olive Oil and then season all sides with your favorite Seasoning Spice Mix. Hold on a pan, covered, in the refrigerator while you prepare all other items.
6 oz. box of basic Couscous Mix
1/4 teaspoon of Saffron Threads or Saffron Powder
1. Use a store bought 6 oz. box of basic Couscous Mix. I usually think they have too much salt and only use half of the seasoning packet. You will need to add 1/4 teaspoon of Saffron Threads or Saffron Powder when you make the Couscous for flavor and color.
2. Follow the instructions on the package and then hold the Couscous, covered in a low temp oven to keep it warm.
Fresh Bean Salad
5 oz. Yellow Wax Beans, cut diagonally in 1" pieces
5 oz. Haricot Vert Beans, cut diagonally in 1" pieces
5 oz. Fresh Shelled Peas, or frozen
5 oz. Shelled Edamame Beans, (find in the Freezer section, pre-blanched)
6 oz. Fresh Fava Beans, blanched & shelled
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer and blanch the Yellow Beans and Haricot Vert and simmer for 3 minutes and then shock in ice water. If you are able to secure Fresh, Shelled Peas, you will need to blanch and shock then also as well as the Fava Beans. Fava Beans need to first be blanched in order to remove the bean from the shell casing.
2. Defrost the Edamame Beans and drain well. Mix all of the Beans together in a bowl and add some Fresh Herb Vinaigrette just before serving. You do not want to mix the Vinaigrette too early or the Bean Salad will oxidize and loose some of its fresh color.
3. Check for seasoning in case you want to add some Salt and Pepper.
Fresh Herb Vinaigrette
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled
1 Shallot, Peeled
1 TBSP. Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Sherry Vinegar
1/4 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Basil, Chervil, Chives, Chopped
Kosher Salt, Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1. Using a high speed Blender add the Garlic, Shallot, Dijon, Sherry and Rice Vinegars. Turn Blender on high to puree mix together. Slowly drizzle in the Olive Oil. Season with Salt and Pepper.
2. When seasoning is good, finish the Vinaigrette by adding in all of the Fresh herbs to create a bright green Vinaigrette and hold in the refrigerator.
3. If you want to make this step easier, simply buy your favorite brand of Champagne Vinaigrette and then just blend in the Fresh Herbs.
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Onion, Diced
1 Red Pepper, seeded, large dice
1 Zucchini, large dice
1 Yellow Squash, large dice
1 Eggplant, peeled, large dice
1 Can Plum Tomatoes, chopped
1 Sprig Fresh Rosemary
5 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
Kosher Salt, Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1. Heat up a large pot and add in the Olive Oil, Garlic, Onions, Red Pepper, Rosemary , Thyme and sauté for 5 minutes until everything begins to soften.
2. Next add the Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Eggplant and Plum Tomatoes and set on a slow simmer for 30 minutes stirring often to avoid any scorching.
3. Season with Salt and Pepper and simmer another 15 minutes. You want to slowly cook the vegetables until they are all stewed together.
4. Once you are good with the seasoning, turn off the heat and let sit on stove top. You will heat it up again right before service.
5. Ratattouille is a great dish that can be made a day in advance and actually improves in the fusion of flavors when it is re-heated.
1. You now have the Couscous, Ratattouille and Bean Salad ready so now it is time to cook the Salmon.
2. Heat up a non stick Saute pan Med-High and add the Olive Oil to the pan. Add in the Salmon Fillets when the oil is hot and sear the Salmon for two minutes on each side.
3. Reduce the heat to low, add in the White Wine, Sweet Butter and cover. This will help steam and finish the fillets which should take 5 minutes.
4. I prefer to fully cook my fish to 145 and test it easily with an electric thermometer, however some people prefer their Salmon not fully cooked, this detail is up to you.
5. At this point you should have your Couscous and Ratattouille warm and ready to go and your Bean Salad is ready as well. Lay out all serving plates and first spoon on a serving of Couscous followed by a serving of the Fresh Bean Salad. Place the Salmon on top and then Spoon on the Ratattouille and drizzle with some Fresh Herb Vinaigrette and serve.
— Published: April/May 2013
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