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On the Line

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3

Author Photograph of Eric Ripert About Eric Ripert

Eric Ripert is the chef and part owner of Le Bernardin, awarded four stars by The New York Times, three stars by the Michelin Guide, rated best restaurant in New York by Zagat, and best restaurant in America by GQ. He is a frequent guest on television shows such as Bravo's Top Chef, The Late Show with David Letterman, Today, and Charlie Rose. He has been called "one of the most valuable commodities ever imported from France," and is the recipient of numerous James Beard Awards, including Outstanding Chef and Outstanding Restaurant.

About Christine Muhlke

Christine Muhlke is an editor at The New York Times. Her writing has appeared in Food & Wine, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and other publications.

From the Introduction

My mother was a very good cook, very French. She was born in Morocco, which influenced some of her cooking. She cooked a little Vietnamese, too. The French food she did was slightly too refined for everyday meals at home and she was obsessed with having a great table set for lunch and dinner-tablecloth, porcelain, silverware--so I was eating in a very sophisticated environment without even knowing it. I loved being in the kitchen with her. Not necessarily for the cooking--though by the age of four I was baking breadsticks. What I liked was the ambience: picking at things and eating them right off the stove...

My role model was Paul Bocuse: Before him, chefs were really in the background; the maitre d's were celebrities. I know you shouldn't be looking at becoming a star--you should be looking at the craft--but I must say I was tempted to become recognized...

Before I started working at Le Bernardin, I took a vacation in Italy and Spain. Gilbert joined me in Barcelona, and we went to San Sebastian and Madrid together. We partied like maniacs and talked about everything from cooking to the meaning of life. When I started at the restaurant, he gave me so much power and support. I didn't realize at the time how young I was to be taking over such a big kitchen. Being so naive was a good thing, because I didn't feel the pressure. Gilbert let me make mistakes; he let me be, basically. But he always said, 'Think Le Bernardin philosophy: The best fish, prepared simply. He also prepared me for the media attention he knew was coming: Hopefully you'll see good articles in your life and have positive write-ups. But be sure you read them only once and look at your picture only once. Because if you go back, you're screwed.' --Eric Ripert

A young Eric cooking at an anniversary dinner at La Tour d'Argent.
A young Eric cooking at an anniversary dinner at La Tour d'Argent.




I picked up this poaching technique from my friend Laurent Gras, who learned it from a Chinese chef. Cooking a delicate fish like halibut in a thick veloute lets the fish retain its moistness and gives it a wonderful glossiness.

Tip: Start citrus-coriander oil one day in advance

Serves 4

2 cups red wine vinegar
1 cup sherry vinegar
4 cups water
½ cup kosher salt
2 medium golden beets
2 medium red beets
Fine sea salt and freshly
     ground white pepper
2 tablespoons Infused
      Citrus-Coriander Oil

¼ cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Ponzu (see below)
2 teaspoons minced shallot
½ cup Infused Citrus-Coriander Oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Espelette pepper powder

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
7 cups water
½ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon vermouth
Fine sea salt

Four 6-ounce halibut fillets
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

1 tablespoon basil julienne
1 tablespoon opal basil julienne

For the beets, divide the vinegars, water, and kosher salt between two medium saucepans. Add the golden beets to one pan and the red beets to the other. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly and cook the beets until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Drain the beets and let cool.

Peel the beets and cut them into ¼-inch-thick slices. You need 16 yellow beet slices and 12 red beet slices. Using a 1½-inch round cutter, trim each slice into a neat circle. Lay the beet circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (The beets can be cooked and sliced ahead of time and kept refrigerated until ready to use.)

For the citrus-coriander oil emulsion, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, ponzu, and shallot in a small stainless steel saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the oil in a steady stream. Season to taste with salt, white pepper, and Espelette pepper. Keep warm.

For the poaching liquid, melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, until it is a golden straw color and has a slightly nutty aroma, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool, to prevent lumps when you add the roux to the hot liquid.

Bring the water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the orange juice, lemon juice, and vermouth and bring back to a boil. Whisking constantly, add half of the roux. Add the rest of the roux and bring to a boil (the mixture will look like a thick soup). Season with salt and simmer until all the raw flour taste has cooked out, about 15 minutes.

Reduce the heat and let the poaching liquid cool to 180°F, just under a simmer. Simmer for a few more minutes to cook the acidity out, whisking the liquid occasionally to prevent a skin from forming.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the halibut, transfer the liquid to a shallow pan. Season the fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Place them in the poaching liquid and poach for 5 to 6 minutes, turning once, until a metal skewer can be easily inserted into the fish and, if left in for 5 seconds, feels just warm when touched to your lip.

While the fish is poaching, season the beets with salt and white pepper and drizzle the citrus-coriander oil over them. Heat the beets in the oven until they are warm, about 2 minutes.

To serve, remove the halibut from the poaching liquid and drain on a towel. Arrange 4 golden beet slices and 3 red beet slices in a circle in the center of each plate, alternating red and yellow slices. Place the halibut on top of the beets and garnish with the basil julienne. Spoon the citrus emulsion over and around the halibut, and serve immediately.

Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
½ star anise
3 basil sprigs
2 cilantro sprigs
1 tomato, cored and chopped
1 cup olive oil
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon oil
Fine sea salt

Crush the orange zest, lemon zest, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, star anise, basil, cilantro, and tomato together in a bowl. Add the 3 oils and season well with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours or up to 10 days.

To use, gently warm the oil and strain it through a fine-mesh sieve; discard the aromatics.

Makes about 3 ½ cups

1 cup soy sauce
Minced zest and juice of ½ orange
Minced zest and juice of ½ lemon
Minced zest and juice of ¼ lime
1/3 cup yuzu juice
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups water

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.

Transfer to a jar or bottle, seal tightly, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.

Copyright © 2008 by Eric Ripert and Christine Muhlke. Reprinted from On the Line with permission from Artisan.

On the Line

For a detailed description & pricing info click here.

Take one top New York restaurant, add danger, drama, and dialogue, toss in their best recipes, and you have a cooking classic.

How does a 4-star restaurant stay on top for more than two decades? In On the Line, chef Eric Ripert takes readers behind the scenes at Le Bernardin, one of just three New York City restaurants to earn three Michelin stars. Any fan of gourmet dining who ever stole a peek behind a restaurant kitchen's swinging doors will love this unique insider's account, with its interviews, inventory checklists, and fly-on-the-wall dialogue that bring the business of haute cuisine to life. More...