The Casita’s stove has only two burners, but Georges is a master at making it operate like a full-service appliance. Here are his tips for how to enjoy fine dining from a minimalist kitchen.
First, start with the freshest ingredients.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive ingredients. When selecting fish, for example, price is often the worst indicator of freshness. Check the eyes. If they’re protruding, the fish is fresh. If they’re recessed, not so much.
When it comes to fruits and vegetables try to go with what’s seasonal. There’s nothing better than fresh green peas in season. That’s when they have the most flavor; they positively pop in your mouth.
Second, get a good grill.
G will often place the rectangular grill across the front burner and then cook several things at once on it. Slices of bread to warm on the left and right ends, for example, while he sautées his meat in the middle. Or he might do three different items at the same time – grill the bread on one side, sauté the meat or fish in the middle, and grill sliced potatoes (already boiled, or microwaved if we’ve electricity) on the other side.
This leaves the back burner free to boil the potatoes, grill the vegetables, cook the pasta or create the sauce.
Third, have the right tools.
Tops on G’s priority list is sharp knives. He carries a sharpening stone with him wherever we go, literally. He loves to sharpen knives (“it’s a skill my grandfather taught me”) and he’s not shy about offering to sharpen yours if he thinks they’re insufficiently edged.
Other mandatory tools: A dark-colored easy-to-clean cutting board that doesn’t harm your knives (e.g. not a glass one); a strong, good-quality set of tongs; a soft, heat-resistant, one-piece silicone spatula (wooden handles rot); a large pan with a lid (ours is about 12 inches in diameter) so that you can cook more than one thing at a time in it.
Fourth, have key spices at hand.
We carry Les Epices de Georges, of course. He makes up a big batch once or twice a year; it’s the only time he measures anything. Also salt and pepper. A bit of tabasco or a good salsa always rounds out our supplies.
Fifth, think sauce.
This tip comes from the saucier. Being a chef wasn’t enough to get G his green card to work legally in the U.S. years ago, but his specialty was: composing sauces.
G is best known for his beurre blanc. It goes on just about anything – meat, fish chicken or vegetables – and transforms the ordinary into a rich, tart and flavorful culinary delight.
Here’s a rough outline of how G makes this sauce, keeping in mind that he measures nothing: Start with fresh lemon juice and white wine, simmer until it reduces to about half. Add some heavy cream. Boil. Then slice butter into it. Add salt and tabasco (or white pepper) to taste.
At the last, sprinkle your favorite fresh herb on top. (He usually goes with fresh basil or cilantro.)
Finally, light the candles.
Nothing tastes better than a leisurely dinner under the stars by flickering candlelight.
And don’t forget the wine.