At Home with chef Rick Halberg
In 1968, shortly after graduating from Mumford High School in Northwest Detroit and after getting a few college credits, Rick Halberg, like many other young men, took Horace Greely's advice and decided to go West.
"I was kind of like a vagabond hippie at the time, but I needed to work, so I got a job at a restaurant in Aspen, Colorado, called Thanksgiving. And that sparked my interest in cooking," the chef/co-owner of Local Kitchen and Bar in Ferndale says.
The Aspen gig was followed by a stint at a communal vegetarian restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, where Halberg started out as a dishwasher and ended up running the whole operation. And then, now passionate about cooking, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
While there, Halberg also worked at the Depuy Canal House restaurant in High Falls, New York, for proprietor/chef John Novi.
"He was chef Alice Waters' counterpart on the East Coast," Halberg says. (Waters is the legendary proprietor/chef of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkley, California, as well as a popular cookbook author. Her restaurant is famous for its organic, locally grown ingredients and for pioneering California cuisine.)
"John Novi gave me the freedom to utilize my creative gift," Halberg says. "I seem to have a knack for the dance of cooking. Novi's mom said watching me was like watching a ballet. And I have also been able to develop a great taste memory. I've been lucky to eat a lot of food in different parts of the world, and those tastes are stored in my memory so I can re-create the feeling of them."
Since moving back to Metro Detroit in 1980, the Farmington Hills resident has been involved as chef, owner or both of many well-known restaurants, including R.I.K.'s in West Bloomfield Township, Emily's in Northville and Tutto Bene Pizzeria in Farmington Hills. He also ran Hiller's Markets' prepared foods department from 2006 to 2008.
Halberg says he chose to share this fish recipe with us because "it's simple to make, it utilizes wonderful herbs, and it's cooked whole. When you cook fish on the bone, all the natural moisture and juices are intact. It's the best way to eat a fish."
And to accompany the fish and fingerling potatoes, the chef recommends either an Albarino Spanish white wine, a Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc.
Judith Harris Solomon is a Metro Detroit freelance writer. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whole Roasted Red Snapper with Lime Yogurt, Fennel and Charmoula
Charmoula is a North African sauce or marinade for fish or meat that is often used in Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian cooking to flavor fish or seafood but can also be used on meats and vegetables.
For the lime yogurt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (preferably Greek-style)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
For the red snapper
1 (3- to 4-pound) whole Red Snapper with head and tail, gutted, scaled, rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
½ bunch fresh Italian parsley sprigs plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ bunch fresh thyme sprigs plus 1 and 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh fennel fronds
1 lemon, thinly sliced
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cilantro sprigs (for garnish)
For the fennel mixture
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 medium fresh fennel bulbs, trimmed, cut into ½-inch-thick wedges
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper
For the charmoula
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ¼ cups finely chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
To prepare the lime yogurt: Mix yogurt, chopped cilantro and lime juice in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. (Can be made a day ahead if kept refrigerated.)
To prepare the red snapper: Cut 2-inch-long, ½-inch-deep slits into outside of both sides of fish, spacing 2 inches apart. Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and pepper. Place parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, fennel fronds and lemon slices in fish cavity. Sprinkle top side of fish with 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and 1 ½ teaspoons of chopped thyme. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
To prempare the fennel mixture: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir fennel seeds in small, dry skillet over medium heat until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Mix fennel wedges, 2 tablespoons olive oil, toasted fennel seeds and 1 ½ teaspoons chopped thyme on rimmed baking sheet; toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until fennel is tender and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 30 minutes. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 400-degree oven until heated through, about 10 minutes.)
To prepare the charmoula: Stir cumin in small skillet over medium heat until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Allow cumin to cool slightly and add to blender with remaining ingredients. Blend until slightly smooth. (Can be made 2 hours ahead.)
To cook the fish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle 5 tablespoons olive oil over fish. Roast fish just until opaque in center, about 30 minutes. Let fish rest 5 minutes.
To serve: Using 2 large metal spatulas, transfer fish to platter. Arrange fennel and potato mixture (see recipe below) around it. Spoon some charmoula, then some lime yogurt atop fish. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serve with remaining charmoula and lime yogurt. Serves 4.
Per serving: 880 calories; 64 g fat (12 g saturated fat; 65 percent calories from fat); 15 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 108 mg cholesterol; 527 mg sodium; 61 g protein; 6 g fiber.
Fingerling Potatoes with Lemon and Herbs
For the potatoes
2 pounds baby or fingerling potatoes
¼ cup olive oil, plus extra as needed
6 cloves garlic, peeled
For the dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped fine
Freshly ground salt and black pepper
In an 8-quart stockpot, fill with enough water to cover potatoes by at least 2 inches. Bring water to a boil over medium heat.
Place the potatoes in the pot and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander and allow to dry for 5 minutes.
Using the palm of your hand or the bottom of a glass, gently press the potatoes until lightly smashed.
In a large, nonstick skillet, heat ¼ cup of oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly brown, about 1 minute. Remove the garlic and discard.
In batches, add the potatoes and saute, without stirring, until the bottoms turn golden brown. Using a spatula, turn the potatoes over and cook, adding more oil, if needed, until crusty and golden brown on both sides.
To prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, parsley and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve: Very lightly spoon the dressing over the potatoes and toss only once very gently to coat, if you prefer (or you might even choose to pass the dressing around to your guests).
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl. Serves 8.
Per serving: 880 calories; 64 g fat (12 g saturated fat; 65 percent calories from fat); 22 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 101 mg sodium; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber.
About this feature
Know of a chef — or a restaurant whose chef — you'd like to see featured here? Email the name of the chef and/or the restaurant to email@example.com — and stay tuned. Who knows, you may find out what he or she is making at home soon.