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Award Winning North Shore Chicago Chef Shares the Secret to a Perfect Fish Dinner

December 20, 2011 | Comments: 0 | Views: 189

I frequently visit Evanston restaurants tucked away on the North Shore of Chicago because this part of town offers superior fine dining and is convenient to the city center by Metra. Over the years I've learned several dinner preparation secrets from one of the best Chefs in this part of town. Recently Chef Jose Romero surprised me with a new secret my fellow fine diners will be pleased to learn. So if you're planning a delicious dinner and looking for an alternative to red meat, it's time to learn, "What is the secret to a perfect fish dinner?" To answer this question I interviewed several of the top Evanston restaurants to learn how they prepare and serve gourmet seafood dishes. The secret was given to be by all of them. However, the manner in which Chef Jose delivered it to me made it very memorable.

In Chicago-land we are fortunate to have a ton of flavorful restaurants with a variety menus, ethnic cuisines, and good old beef and fish. Sometimes local charm influences the menus as Chicago is an ethnic melting pot. Less than 20% of the restaurants specialize in fish or seafood. When I posed my question to Chef Jose, he took a break from his Evanston restaurant duties, and over a bottle of wine shared this story from his youth.

"I grew up In Central America where my father taught me the love of fishing. Not only did I catch fish, but I learned how to clean, prepare, cook, serve and eat the local varieties of fresh caught fish with my family. We also had seafood like lobster, crab, conch, and other shellfish. These were caught by hand while snorkeling in the shallow waters by my house. "

Chef Jose then delivered a stunning revelation, "Here in Evanston there is nothing better than a fresh local caught crappie, cleaned and eaten within hours of being caught. The 'something special' that makes for its great taste, is the same secret that makes any seafood entree taste great.That is freshness." Then Jose told me this story to imprint why freshness is first for fish and seafood.

"As a youth in El Salvador, I didn't have the remotest thought in my imagination of the possibility of Evanston restaurants or fine dining in Chicago. Back then as a boy, what I would do to create a fish entree was take a barefoot walk down local dirt roads, often muddy from a recent rain; amble up to the shoreline and fish in my favorite fishing hole. My father was a good and patient teacher, standing behind me to guide me by holding his big calloused hands over mine, helping me to cast off just right and in the best direction possible. With practice I learned to adeptly compensate for sudden bursts of wind. When it came to shellfish seafood, he taught me how to free dive in the best places, how to stay submerged for several minutes, and how to catch these critters with my bare hands! Within minutes we would walk home, prepare our catch, and enjoy a family meal with a delicious ocean fresh entree cooked to perfection."

With a twinkle in his eye, Chef Romero continued, "Whether it's Sea Bass, Salmon, Pike or Whitefish...In the dishes I create I use a special blend of ingredients borrowed from my homeland, to enhance and preserve the delicate essence of the flavor of fish and seafood. I don't use too much salt or spices as they could otherwise distract or overpower one's taste buds. You can do the same at home with your favorite spices. As a chef in a sea of Evanston restaurants, I bring the same passion and insistence on freshness to my kitchen that my father taught me as a boy. Therefore I only deal with vendors who fly in the fish on the same day it is caught and can deliver it to me."

The Chef went on. "Do you know that you can purchase fish as fresh as I can? What you have to do is find a wholesale fish supplier near you exactly like the ones I use. Here is why. Today, with modern transportation and nearly instant refrigeration, I can serve you at my restaurant the freshest possible fish and seafood from either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean that is on par with the 'just caught' fish I had growing up in my home country in my youth. Perhaps it is actually fresher with the flash cooling methods used when fish are commercially caught today."

There it was, so simple, yet uniquely elegant. The secret given was to me by award winning Chef Jose, on preparing the best fish dish. His story took the secret to the next level, as I better understood his passion, spirit, and love of cooking. He was quite clear. First, begin with a total commitment to the freshness of the fish itself. Second, mix a blend of spice ingredients but don't be heavy handed. Follow these rules and you will be treated to an extra fine dining experience.

Jose is a wise Chef. He finished the night and bottle of wine by adding, "If you share the same passion for seafood as I do, you will notice the difference in the taste. That's why our small restaurant in the Evanston neighborhood is special because we get daily fish and seafood shipments for absolute freshness. You see, we can beat the big guys who need to store large inventories that last several days. So if you wish, you can come on in and see if your taste buds don't agree that we serve the freshest and tastiest fish when it comes to seafood fine dining in Chicago."

I decided right then to develop my skills and taste buds abilities. In the end, I regularly try my hand at preparing various types of fish dishes and over time, with lots of practice, I've gotten better at it. Regardless of how many times I try, I cannot duplicate the Chef's flavors. Maybe it's time to take another Evanston restaurant trip and hope that Chef Jose will share another secret with me, that is, "How to create the special blend of spice ingredients to enhance the delicate flavor of fish". The Chef creates an elusive flavor that I cannot duplicate.

As you attempt to prepare the perfect fish dinner, recall the story of Chef Jose and his father in your heart as you cook. If you use the same methods, your special meal will turn out just right. Should it fail, you can always venture out to the nearby Evanston restaurants, and discover delicious seafood that may just be prepared by the best restaurants in Chicago for fine dining.

Peter Mills, V is the proprietor of Chef's Station: http://chefs-station.com one of the best restaurants in Chicago at the center of downtown Evanston. Their Award winning Chef Jose E. Romero involves his whole heart and passion to prepare delicious foods that ideally pair with their extended list of 300 wines. A welcoming quiet romantic atmosphere and our friendly staff make Chef's Station a great place to plan your next night out. Call for reservations (847) 570-9821.

Source: EzineArticles
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