Vivid – memories of the tastes, sounds and color of the iconic eatery Ma Maison. Spring green bursts forth on a plate of Salmon in Basil Sauce, a memorable little jewel to savor.
Ma Maison, the name may not register to new generations of cooks, however much of the beautifully innovative cooking that launched from California, and is still an influence today, took root under the awning-clad bungalow on Melrose Boulevard.
My first dining experience at Ma Maison cemented a couple of things for me. One, the dishes prepared by the young new chef named Wolfgang Puck, were like no other I had ever tasted, in a spectacular way. Two, that the excitement at Ma Maison was more than just the Hollywood kind, there was culinary change afoot and I was seated in one of the epicenters.
Although French cuisine reined supreme as I began my cooking quest, the new French, or nouvelle cuisine, was still at arms length. To me, a very young cook, Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison, brought French food with genius; fresh local ingredients, delicate, lighter portions, beautiful presentation, all that captured California’s relaxed elegance. Up north, Alice Waters at Chez Pannise was also echoing a wonderful new direction.
Over the years, during my dining and attendance at parties at Ma Maison, I savored the sights, sounds and tastes of Ma Maison, filled with celebrities and colorful clamor. A rotating menu of delights, with menu covers designed by artists such as David Hockney, the place was pure LA. When the cookbook, “Wolfgang Puck’s Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen” was released, I bounded to the book store and began cooking. I wondered, could I ever come close to capturing the incredible tastes in my own kitchen?
The answer was yes. Over many years, I have prepared a significant number of recipes from the book, with great success. In the introduction, we learn each recipe was tested by a person who enjoys cooking, yet not a professional chef. Nice. Also, the chef is not protective of his recipes or techniques, sharing knowledge, and acknowledging a dish will never be the same, no matter how times you prepare it. We can relax, and enjoy the process.
With my eye on Spring, one of my favorite recipes from the classic cookbook is Salmon in Basil Sauce. The elegant, verdant and velvety green sauce is lightly napped around a delicate escalope (thin slice) of salmon. The delicate nature of wild salmon is well suited for this recipe and when in season, I automatically reach for this recipe.
The recipes of this modern-style French cooking base their unperpinnings on classic techniques, which are well worth working on, but beginning with this beautiful basil sauce is relatively easy and has produced a very satisfying return for the effort. Other favorites include, Shrimp with Mustard, Veal Medallions with Port Wine Sauce, Pear Tart with Caramel Sauce, and Champagne Sherbet. A cookbook worth adding to your library, also available in updated paperback.
I bring you the Bijouxs, the little jewels from my kitchen, favorite recipes from my lifetime of cooking – Salmon in Basil Sauce, an enduring little jewel.
As always, enjoy. B