February can be dreary, cold and uninspiring. But, thankfully, it can also be white, bright and beautiful. As a chef, I try to chase away the doldrums of the season, delight the restaurant's loyal clients and hopefully entice some new ones by being extra-creative. So when my team meets to plan out menus, we take freshness into consideration and aim to incorporate a new technique, a seasonal product or a theme to lift weary spirits.
Over the holidays, I spent some time researching what has made Montreal's restaurant scene so exciting. In the sixties, Les Halles became the hottest restaurant, and Jacques Landurie a super chef, when he introduced nouvelle cuisine. The crowds came and a specific dish - pamplemousse Marie-Louise, with its juicy pink grapefruit, seafood medley and homemade remoulade - became a star. At Toqué!, we have decided to reintroduce this succulent dish as a toast to Landurie's creative talent. Rich and romantic, the recipe is easy to make, can be prepared in advance and may be assembled at the last minute. Bon appétit!
Chef Normand Laprise is co-owner of Toqué! in Montreal.
Normand Laprise's pamplemousse Marie-Louise
3 egg yolks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper or cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups sunflower oil
3 tablespoons chopped capers
3 tablespoons chopped gherkin pickles
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Bring all ingredients to room temperature. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks with wire whisk until thick. Beat in a little salt and pepper, half the vinegar and half the mustard; mixture should thicken after about 1 minute. Start adding in the oil, about 2 tablespoons at first and then the remainder in a slow, steady stream, beating constantly. Beat in the remaining vinegar, mustard and more salt and pepper to taste. When the remoulade is thick and smooth, mix in capers, gherkins, parsley and tarragon. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
1/4 pound fresh scallops
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Chopped fresh tarragon and chives
3 lobsters (1 pound each)
6 large grapefruits
1 tablespoon cognac or brandy
Dash liquid red pepper seasoning
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 ripe tomato, chopped
Pinch of salt
In a small bowl, combine scallops with lemon juice, olive oil, a pinch of salt and a little tarragon and chives. Place scallops in the mixture and marinate at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Cook the lobsters in a large pot of boiling salted water about 5 minutes, then drain, cool and remove meat from shells. Keep meat from claws and legs to decorate each serving and cut remaining lobster meat in pieces, then refrigerate. Cut 3 grapefruits in half and scoop out flesh, keeping shells intact. Cut flesh into small pieces, removing all white membrane. Peel the remaining 3 grapefruits and pull apart each segment, removing all white membrane, to decorate the plates. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine scallops, cut-up lobster, small grapefruit pieces and remoulade. Stir in cognac, liquid red pepper seasoning, soy sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Fill each of the 6 grapefruit shells with mixture, set on serving plates and decorate with pieces of lobster and grapefruit segments. Sprinkle with chopped tomato and a little chopped tarragon.
I'm not certain this decadent dish will provoke a monster thirst. There's plenty of acidity (thanks to the grapefruit) going on, providing a nice counterbalance to the shellfish but not so much to wine. That said, your top choices include New Zealand sauvignon blanc and Australian riesling. Both wines are zippier than a Zip car and as fresh as the flavours in the pamplemousse. Two other good options: chilled vodka and a dry gin martini. Avoid red wine at all costs, even at gunpoint.