During the run of the Iron Chef America series, I’ve seen Iron Chefs Sakai and Morimoto use a sauce called ‘Sauce Americane/Americaine’. I was intrigued enough that I wanted to try it. When Iron Chef Morimoto opened his first restaurant in Philadelphia there was an item on the menu:
* pan-roasted arctic char with maitake mushrooms and lobster sauce “American”
Since my wife loves arctic char, I thought I’d take a crack at doing the dish. Pan roasting the fish would be the easy part for me; but how to make the sauce? Fortunately, I came across a resource back in 2002 at http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Masaharu+Morimoto.-a089157440 that described the recipe –
For the sauce americane:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 small shallots, peeled and minced
1/2 cup brandy (I use cognac here)
1 cup lobster stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon minced truffle
Salt and pepper to taste
A long gone website (ca. 2002) “www.masterchefrecipes.com” also had a version of this recipe from Iron Chef Morimoto that mentioned the possibility of substituting shrimp/seafood/fish stock though it was noted that lobster stock was preferred. Shrimp is generally more accessible to most of us so I thought I’d do this sauce using a shrimp shell base.
Iron Chef Morimoto’s lobster broth is:
Lobster Broth (from Morimoto: The New Art Of Japanese Cooking , p. 258)
2 lbs (900g) lobster heads (here, I used shells from about 1 1/2 lbs of large shrimp)
1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon brandy (I use cognac here)
1 tablespoon sake
1 carrot chopped (“mirepoix!” – this ended up being 4 oz)
3 celery ribs chopped (“mirepoix!” – at the market this was about 4 oz)
1 onion chopped (“mirepoix!” – this ended up being 8 oz)
3 garlic cloves chopped (I use Nobu’s method of grating the garlic here)
1/3 cup tomato paste
3 springs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
So I went ahead and did a version of the stock/broth with shrimp shells.
1. In a saute pan, sear the lobster heads/shrimp shells over high heat in the vegetable oil until they turn red, about 3 minutes. Pour in brandy (cognac) and sake, toss and remove from heat.
2. In a large saucepan, saute the mirepoix with garlic and scallion in the remaining oil over medium-high
heat (75% maxpower?) until softened but not brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. HERE there appears to be an omission in the book regarding the amount of scallions. Based on the measurements from Iron Chef Morimoto’s Garlic Soy Jus and Scallion Ginger Sauce recipes, 1 small scallion cleaned, derooted and finely minced should do the trick.
3. Add the sauteed lobster heads/shrimp shells with any juices in the pan, the tomato paste, thyme, bay
leaves, white peppercorns and enough water to cover (about 4 cups). Bring to a boil, skimming off any
scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, adding water if needed to keep the ingredients cover.
4. Strain the broth through a fine sieve pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Let
cool, then cover and refridgerate for up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 months
(by the way: If you can only get dried thyme, here’s the conversion – 6 thyme sprigs==3/4 teaspoon dried thyme – so for this recipe, it’s 3/8 teaspoon [here’s the reference: http://www.healwithfood.org/substitute/convert-fresh-thyme-dried-ratio.php%5D. OR if it’s thyme leaves, it’s a ratio of 3 fresh:1 dried).
Going back to the sauce americane recipe – In a saucepan, i heated the oil and sauteed the shallots.
The saucepan was deglazed with the cognac and reduced until almost dry. Then the lobster stock was added and the whole thing simmered until reduced by
half. I strained the mixture and added the cream and reduced it slightly one last time. At this point butter was to be whisked in and minced truffles added. Finally the sauce’s seasoning was to be corrected and
For the version I would be doing, I added 1/4 teaspoon of 4:1 salt/pepper mix, dropped the butter (remember, my wife isn’t really fond of heated butter) and also
added a few drops of truffle oil.
A couple of notes:
“Sauce Americaine” (whatever the spelling) was originally a sauce Provencal from Southern France which used tomatoes (thank you, James Beard). Iron Chef Morimoto apparently relied on pan frying the lobster shells and the tomato paste for the sauce’s redness. The tomato adds a bit of an acidic edge to the sauce and the use of the cream is used to soften/round the flavor of the sauce. When adding the cream, pour a little bit in at a time and blend. The sauce is done when you can put a teaspoon halfway in and the sauce’s nappe’s.
The arctic char fillets, I cooked in the pan with rice oil on medium heat, searing the skin side down first for about 4 minutes (to get the skin nice and crisp) and then flipping the fillets over for a few more minutes.
I set the fish aside to rest while I quickly pan fried the maitake in the same pan with a little bit more rice oil. The maitake was cooked for about 2 or 3 minutes over high heat. Plating was now just a matter of placing the roasted asparagus down first, followed by the char and topped with the maitake. I carefully poured about 4 tablespoons of the sauce into each plate.
My wife commented that the Arctic Char dish with the Morimoto Sauce Americane exceeded her expectations. I think that if I were to do this sauce again, I would reduce the cream from 1/3 cup to 1/4 cup.