Top Chef finds solace, joy and connection in the kitchen
Growing up, if Hugh Acheson’s father Keith — a busy single parent — burned toast, he would still eat it. There wasn’t time to remake it, and just throwing it away would be wasteful.
Acheson — an award-winning chef, former “Top Chef” judge, author, and owner of three critically acclaimed restaurants — pays homage to these early memories of cooking and his dad with a tattoo of burnt toast on his forearm. His passion for cooking started in the kitchen with his father in his childhood home of Ottawa, Canada.
“My father and I were just figuring it out together in the kitchen,” says Acheson. “He always did a remarkable job of getting food on the table. A lot of it was food of efficiency, but it was home-cooked.”
Today, the kitchen still brings father and son together. Keith was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago, an experience that inspires Acheson to find solace and connection around the table — something he encourages all families to do. “It’s about gathering with loved ones and paying respect for the food that we have and each other’s company,” he says.
Acheson realizes that finding time to cook may feel daunting to a busy caregiver. But he strongly believes that anyone can prepare wholesome meals by developing basic culinary skills — whether that’s learning to make a vinaigrette, poach a fish or scramble an egg — and find joy in it.
“For a caregiver, it’s about the connections they’re making with their loved one, and a successful feeling of providing in a healthy way,” he says.
“Cooking from scratch should never be a long, arduous process,” Acheson says. “It should be a time to step back from worrying about everything else and cook for somebody we care about and ourselves.”
Halibut With Carrot-Ginger Sauce and Hazelnut-Carrot Salad
This recipe is featured in Acheson’s new cookbook, Sous Vide: Better Homecooking. Sous vide is a method of cooking where food is sealed in plastic bags, then cooked in a precise, temperature-controlled water bath.
Immersion circulator; a large vessel to hold water and mount the circulator; resealable plastic bags; clamp to attach the bag to the vessel.
4 six-ounce potions of center cut halibut filet, skin off
Kosher salt to taste
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup cut young carrots (1/2 inch rounds)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 cup dashi or chicken broth
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
4 small carrots (with greens attached)
1/4 cup carrot tops (greens), well washed and chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt to taste
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- Preheat circulator water bath to 48°C/118.4°F.
- Set the halibut on a sheet pan and season with kosher salt. Place in a resealable gallon sized bag and add thyme sprigs. Use the water displacement method* to immerse the bag in the circulator bath. Cook for 30 minutes.
- In a saucepan, combine the cut young carrots, ginger and dashi/broth. Cook on medium heat until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and then immediately transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Add two tablespoons of unsalted butter and continue to puree. Return to the saucepan and keep warm until ready to serve.
- Make the salad by peeling and thinly slicing carrots into 1/4 inch-thick coins. In a bowl, combine the carrots and carrot tops with parsley, mint, tarragon and hazelnuts. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice and season with a pinch of sea salt. Toss well and set aside.
- Preheat broiler to high.
- When the fish is done, remove from the bag and blot away excess moisture with a paper towel. Rub halibut with butter.
- Place the fish on a sheet pan and broil for 3-4 minutes.
- Pour 1/4 cup of sauce on each plate, add a portion of cooked halibut and salad. Serve immediately.
*Lower the food-filled bag into your water bath and watch the bag close around the food. Zip the bag shut, leaving about an inch open so the air can escape, then completely zip shut once the last bubble of air is released.