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Oceana Magazine Summer 2009: Chef's Corner: Barton Seaver

In the two years since Oceana last featured Washington, D.C. chef Barton Seaver, a lot has changed. With a new restaurant gig, a retail fish market, and a public television series all on the agenda, one thing remains constant: his commitment to sustainable seafood.

Barton Seaver, whom the Washington Post recently dubbed the “Alice Waters of seafood,” is now the executive chef at Blue Ridge, a restaurant in DC’s Glover Park that he calls “a wonderful evolution of the local food movement.” At Blue Ridge, he serves farm-to-table meals and, of course,
sustainably-sourced seafood.

But he is most excited about his yet-to-be-named fish market that is slated to open in October 2009. Seaver’s first foray into retail, the market will offer up Green List  fish with a side of knowledge. Two crucial aspects of encouraging sustainable eating are affordability and guidance, he believes, which is why he will accept food stamps and provide recipe cards and instructional cooking videos on his website for less-familiar fish such as mackerel.

He also recently joined the non-profit group Blue Ocean Institute as a fellow, and is working on a PBS series in which he’ll travel around the country, from the Chesapeake Bay to Alaska, exploring examples of sustainable fishing operations.

It’s abundantly clear from talking to Seaver that he’s put an enormous amount of thought into what – and why – he cooks.

“The compelling narrative of conservation is consumption,” he says. “We need to save because we’ve consumed too much. We need to save because we must continue to consume.”

Alaskan Sablefish with Warm Cherry Vinaigrette

4 fillets Alaskan Sablefish, 5 oz each,
skin off
½ cup white wine
Sea salt
1 T butter
1 shallot, finely minced
1 c cherries, halved and pitted
2 T white balsamic vinegar
(can substitute white wine vinegar)
Kosher salt
1 T parsley, finely chopped
1 T tarragon, finely chopped
8 oz arugula leaves, preferably wild
1 T extra virgin olive oil

Place fish in a pan with steep sides that is large enough to hold all four pieces of fish. Add wine, salt, and some herb stems and cover with cold water. Place the pan on medium heat and slowly bring the temperature up to approximately 160 degrees. Once the temperature reaches 160 it will be approximately 10 minutes of cooking for 1 ½ inch thick filets.

While fish is poaching, melt 1 T butter in a small sauté pan on high heat. Once golden  brown, add the shallots and 30 seconds later, add the cherries. Toss gently and sauté until the cherries begin to release their juices. Season with kosher salt and add the white balsamic vinegar.

Then, reduce over medium heat until it becomes a thick syrup. Add the remaining butter  and the herbs and toss off the heat to incorporate.

Lightly dress the arugula with salt and olive oil. There should be just enough oil to barely cover each leaf so that the salt adheres to the salad.

Remove the sablefish from the poaching liquid. Evenly divide the arugula onto four plates. Remove the fish from the poaching liquid and gently pat dry. The fish will be very fragile so take care with this step.

Place the fish to the side of the salad so as not to wilt the leaves. Equally divide cherries on side of each plate, as well as the balsamic syrup.