Friday, Dec. 04, 2009

Michael Psilakis

What He's Famous For
Bon Appetit's 2008 Chef of the Year

How He Lost the Weight
The chef of New York City's Anthos says he never used to eat poorly — he just ate a lot. He kicked off his 80-lb. weight loss with a three-day fast and a vow not to eat after 10 p.m.

Striped Bass Plaki (Serves 10-15)
This dish is much better when made with a whole fish, but you could also use halibut tail or a big piece of cod. There are lots and lots of vegetables in here that meld with the garlic-herb-citrus "flavors and the delicious pan juices that develop as the fish steam cooks. Serve over rice or orzo to serve an even bigger crowd.

•2 to 3 pounds whole sea bass, black bass, blue fish, or weakfish, gutted and scaled, gills removed
•Extra-virgin olive oil
•Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
•About 1 teaspoon dry Greek oregano
•1 lemon, thinly sliced
•6 large sprigs thyme
•6 large sprigs rosemary
•4 fresh bay leaves or 8 dried leaves
•16 whole cloves garlic, peeled
•1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
•3 plum tomatoes, cut into rough wedges
•2 Idaho potatoes, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into big chunks
•1 large zucchini, thickly sliced on a diagonal
•1 Spanish or sweet onion, cut into thick julienne
•About 16 Kalamata olives, pitted
•Small handful torn fresh herbs, such as dill, mint, and/or parsley
•1/3 cup capers
•1 1/2 cups white wine
•2 tablespoons Garlic Purée (page 264) or cold, unsalted butter
•2 lemons, cut into wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the fish well under cool running water. Pat dry thoroughly.

Film a large roasting pan with the olive oil and place the fish in the center. Season liberally with kosher salt, pepper, and a big pinch of oregano inside and outside. Stuff the cavity with about half the lemon slices, 4 sprigs each of the thyme and rosemary, the bay leaves, and a few garlic cloves.

Cover the fish with overlapping slices of the red onion, then top with the remaining lemon slices. Scatter the tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, Spanish onion, olives, and the remaining thyme, rosemary, and garlic around the fish. Scatter the fresh herbs and capers over all. Season the fish liberally with salt, pepper, and oregano, and pour in the wine. Cover the pan with foil, sealing well.

Steam-bake until the fish is "flaky and cooked, and all the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. (If you push a metal skewer into the center of the fish for a moment, then hold the tip against your lip, it should feel somewhere between warm and hot.)

Discard the herb sprigs if you like, and carefully transfer the fish and all the vegetables to a big platter. Whisk the Garlic Purée or butter into the pan juices until melted, and drizzle over and around the dish. Squeeze the lemon wedges over the top.

Greek Salad (Serves 10-15)
Some people think a Greek salad is a few olives, some cucumbers, tomatoes, and a block of feta on top of some lettuce. This refined version of the quintessential Greek side dish can be assembled up to an hour ahead of time, and kept in the refrigerator. As always, don't dress the salad until just before serving. This salad turns a grilled chicken breast, lamb chop, or any protein into a fresh and bright meal.

•1 large Spanish or sweet onion, thickly sliced
•Extra-virgin olive oil
•Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
•1 large head iceberg lettuce, sliced paper-thin
•1 1/2 pounds whole trimmed bulbs of fennel, sliced crosswise paper-thin
•4 small fire-roasted red bell peppers, home-roasted (page 270) or storebought, cut into strips
•24 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
•3/4 pound English cucumber, peeled, halved, seeds scooped out, and thickly sliced
•8 whole scallions, thinly sliced
•1 red onion, sliced paper-thin
•1/2 cup small, picked sprigs dill, roughly chopped
•1/2 cup small, picked sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
•1 tablespoon dry Greek oregano
•About 50 mixed green and black olives, brined and/or oil-cured, pitted and halved
•16 whole caperberries
•3/4 cup Red Wine & Feta Vinaigrette (page 271)
•2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
•4 pepperoncini (pickled yellow peppers), sliced

Brush the onion slices with a little olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper. On a griddle pan or in a cast-iron skillet, grill the onion until tender. Separate into rings.

In a large bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the Red Wine and Feta Vinaigrette, feta, and pepperoncini. Toss.

Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss the mixture aggressively with clean hands. Scatter with the feta and pepperoncini.