ALASKAN HALIBUT WITH PESTO
This morning I arrived to find a BIG ‘OL BAG of Fresh Basil sitting in my walk-in. What a great surprise to get garden fresh basil! I immediately thought about the Flaky White Alaskan Halibut that I had ordered the night before that we would be running for our Friday night special. PESTO I thought……..
Pesto is an Italian creation that traditionally uses Pine Nuts, Parmesan Cheese, Garlic, Basil Leaves, and Olive Oil. The exact amounts are not important but if one were to look hard enough we would find pesto that ranges from dry to very oily. So, we have to consider what we are going to use it for. On top of that, Pesto has been “Americanized”. As part of the food explosion of the eighties and nineties, a pesto was deemed to be “pesto” if it contained an herb, a cheese, a nut, and the oil. Thus one might make a Cilantro-Walnut Pesto, or a Cashew-Basil Pesto.
For our Halibut dish I made a Macadamia Nut Pesto using the Basil, Parmesan Cheese, and Olive Oil. I did not add very much oil because I wanted to coat the fish with it after it was cooked. Then when we pour a Pineapple Butter Sauce over the fish it will mingle with the pesto and create the flavors we are looking for. I do not add the garlic to my pesto as I feel the acidic nature of the raw garlic is too sharp to allow the subtle flavors of the basil, and the pineapple butter sauce to peek through.
Everyone LOVED it. And it gives the staff something fun to talk about with the guests.
Chef Neal grew up in the Bay Area of San Francisco. He studied International Business at the University of Oregon, but chose instead to spend his life cooking. “It is really all I have ever known”, he tells. In 1985 he was introduced to Master Chef Paul Grutter of the Sherman House in San Francisco. Chef Neal says his cooking has been most influenced by him boasting, “Whom I had the pleasure of working with for four years in the early 80’s. He inspired me by believing in a young man and passing along his knowledge unconditionally. The knowledge is a gift that one holds but does not possess…as it was once his it is now mine”, he tells us. Over those years he worked as an informal European Apprentice with him. During that time he cooked for every walk-of-life and was introduced to degustation of food and fine wines of the world. From this influence he adds, “My number one belief is you must be true to the cuisine and the culture from which it derives. One must have a thorough understanding of a culture to truly represent the cuisine. To this extent I do extensive research before jumping ahead with any new endeavors. The simple fact is food has a unique taste and to properly combine and marry food items, you have to have a firm grasp of those flavor profiles. The old adage of KISS is probably the truest form of cooking”.
In 1990, he moved East and became the executive Sous Chef for Mark Miller’s Red Sage restaurant in D.C. as well as executive Chef of Capital Restaurant Concepts for 10 years. He spent two years at Paolo’s and eight years at the famous Georgia Brown’s. In 2001, he was awarded the Chef of the Year for the Metropolitan Washington D.C. area for his work at Georgia Browns.
In 2009 he opened his very own restaurant, Langermann’s, in Baltimore. In 2011 the second location opened, Langermann’s on Light. Chef Neal lists his Tuna & Crab Tartare and the Cape Fear Scallops, as the two dishes he is most proud of creating and states, “Both dishes represent my cooking philosophy in that every part of the dish reinforces the message of the dish. If you order a scallop then you should taste and feel the texture of the scallop. At Langermann’s we are able to do this by giving the scallop a supporting cast that enhances the scallop instead of competing or over whelming.” Chef Neal has won the Appetizer Challenge three years in a row for the summer Restaurant Week in Baltimore.