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Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013 - Nibbles | Food & drink

Recipe: Pan Roasted Mako Shark with Le Puy Lentils and Tomato-Scotch Bonnet Confit

A personal tribute to Chef Charlie Trotter

By Michael A. Gardiner
- Photo by Michael Gardiner
On Nov. 7, I wrote in this space about the passing of the great Chef Charlie Trotter and the legacy that he left. I wrote of how he lives on through the many great chefs who passed through the kitchens of his eponymous restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s (816 West Armitage in Chicago's Lincoln Park). I wrote of how he's influenced the many chefs who didn't pass through his kitchen, but nonetheless were touched by him. What I didn't include, though, is how Charlie Trotter affected me. It's not an exaggeration to say that I wouldn't be a food writer if it hadn't been for Charlie Trotter. That cookbook with the burgundy cover—and the other ones with the dark blue and brown (and other) colors—changed the way that I looked at food. They inspired me to cook and to create and, ultimately, to write.

Perhaps the most eye-opening revelation in that burgundy cookbook—the one that most singularly changed the way I thought about food and made me question everything I thought I knew—was the idea of pairing fish with red wine and  meat-based reduction sauces. It was eye-opening to me in more than one way. And it was with that in mind that I set out to make my own tribute to Chef Trotter. It's not a dish that Trotter ever cooked. Rather, it's a dish of my own, built under the heavy influence of his body of work. It's a dish that wouldn't have been done before him but was not difficult to conceive in his considerable wake. 

Pan Roasted Mako Shark with Le Puy Lentils and Tomato-Scotch Bonnet Confit 

(Serves 4) 


Red-wine reduction sauce
* 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil 
* 1 medium onion, chopped 
* 1 carrot, chopped 
* 1 stalk celery, chopped 
* 1 shallot, finely chopped 
* 2 cups good quality red wine 
* Several sprigs fresh thyme 
* 2 cups veal (or chicken or pork) stock 

Tomato-Scotch Bonnet confit
* 10 cherry tomatoes cut in half (quarters if they're particularly large) 
* 1-3 Scotch Bonnet peppers (depending on the heat), seeded and sliced very thinly 
* 1/4 cup grapeseed oil 

Le Puy lentils
* 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil 
* 1 shallot, minced 
* Kosher salt 
* Freshly ground black pepper 
* 1 cup Le Puy-style lentils 

Mako shark
* 4 1-inch thick, 6-ounce portions of Mako shark 
* Kosher salt 
* Freshly ground black pepper 
* 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil 

In a medium saucepan, sweat the first five ingredients for three minutes. Add the red wine and bring to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer and reducing to a glaze. Add the remaining stock and bring to a boil again over high heat before dialing back the flame to a simmer and reducing to a sauce consistency. 

Meanwhile, assess the heat of the Scotch Bonnets by tasting a very tiny bit of the tip of one of them. Keeping in mind that is the least hot part of the pepper, determine how much Scotch Bonnet flavor (and heat) you want in your confit. 

Combine the ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for an hour.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 cup water and the red wine and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender but not mushy—30 minutes or so. Add more water as necessary. Season to taste with salt. 

Preheat the oven to 350°. Season the shark with the salt and pepper. Bring the grapeseed oil up to temperature in a sauté pan over high heat and sear the fish for two minutes. Flip the fish and sear on the other side for two more minutes. Transfer the fish to the oven and roast for three minutes until almost cooked through but still moist on the inside. 

To plate the dish, place 2 tablespoons of the drained lentils in the center of each plate. Top each with a piece of the shark. Arrange two pieces of the confited tomato on top of each shark piece along with one or two of the chile pepper slices. Drizzle the sauce around the shark and garnish with dots of the cooking oil from the confit. Note: The shark for this dish was local and was sourced from Poppa’s Fresh Fish, a vendor who's at most local farmer’s markets (and with whom I have a personal friendship and business relationship). I also acquired the tomatoes and the vegetables for the reduction from local vendors at farmer’s markets. The Scotch Bonnet peppers came from our own garden. Similar sorts of sourcing were central to Chef Trotter’s method of working. 

Write to and check out his blog and reviews.