A French Accent On Island Fare

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - March 18, 2009
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Chef Francois Bougard: seared mahi

Chef Francois Bougard, restaurant chef at Bali by the Sea, Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa, says, “Great dishes should be simple and uncomplicated.” His blending of French culinary techniques with fresh local ingredients is a huge part of the success of Bali by the Sea. The combination of elegant ambience, serene ocean views, an award-winning wine list and impeccable service makes it one of my favorite places to dine, and it’s popular with local folks and visitors alike.

Although born and raised in the United States, Bougard has been surrounded and influenced by French culture since he was a young boy. He attended a private school in San Francisco, where all lessons were taught in French; his father, also a chef, exposed Francois to fine French cuisine at an early age.

Bougard received his culinary degree at the Ecole Culnaire Ferandi in Paris, and started his extensive culinary journey at Le Montparnasse 25 Restaurant in Paris. His impressive resume includes Northern California’s Left Bank, La Folie and Hotel Majestic, and the renowned Pastis Restaurant in San Francisco, as well as Le Vistamar Restaurant in Monaco. In Hawaii, Bougard worked for The Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua, Maui, and La Mer Restaurant at the Halekulani Hotel.

Bougard unwinds by grabbing his surfboard and riding waves.

I dedicate this column to him with thanks for giving me the following exquisite recipe for MidWeek readers to enjoy.



For Lemon Grass-scented Rice:
* 2 cups jasmine rice
* 2 cups water
* 1 stalk lemon grass, crushed
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* pinch salt

Add all ingredients to a pot and cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer and cook for about 8 minutes. When all water has evaporated, remove from stove and let sit for another 5 minutes. With a wooden or plastic spoon, fluff the rice. Keep to the side until ready to use.

For Seared Mahi Mahi:

* 1 pound 4 ounces fresh mahi, cut into 5-ounce portions
* 3 tablespoons blended olive oil
* salt and pepper Heat the oil in a sauté pan.

Season the mahi with salt and ground white pepper. When oil begins to smoke, gently add fish top-side down. Sear mahi for 1 minute or until nice golden brown. Gently flip fish over and place inside a 375 degree oven for 1 to 2 minutes. Fish is cooked when natural juices begin to release themselves. Keep fish to the side until ready to use.

For Stir-fried Vegetables:

* 1cup sliced shallots
* 1cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
* 1cup julienne-cut red bell peppers
* 1/4 cup julienne-cut green onion
* 3 tablespoons sesame oil
* 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
* 1/8 cup chopped ginger
* 1/8 cup chopped garlic

Heat the sesame oil in a sauté pan. Add the bell pepper, shallots, shiitake and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the green onions and garlic, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the soy sauce and season to taste. Immediately remove from the heat and keep veggies on the side until ready to use.

For Ginger-Soy-Sesame Sauce:

* 1/2 cup chopped garlic
* 1/2 cup chopped ginger
* 1 tablespoon green curry paste
* 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
* 1/4 cup sesame oil
* 1/4 cup brown sugar
* 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
* 1 cup sweet soy sauce
* 1/2 cup pickled ginger
* 1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree for 1 minute. When ready to use, heat up desired amount of sauce.

To plate: On a 12-inch plate using a circular ring mold, put 3 ounces of jasmine rice and push down evenly to make smooth.

Remove the mold and place the cooked mahi on top of the rice. Spoon 1 ounce of the stir-fried veggies on top of the fish, and ladle 2 ounces of the hot ginger sauce around the fish.

For garnish, at the restaurant, I like to sprinkle some black sesame seeds and add some julienne of green onion on top of the veggies. I also put some scal-lion oil around the outer edge of the plate for more color.

Makes four servings.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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