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IN THE PARIS MODE : A Talented Young Chef Brings the Taste of France to Southern California

May 04, 1986|ROSE DOSTI | Rose Dosti is a Times staff writer.

Who would ever think, after driving through the manicured landscape of Newport Beach, that you could find yourself dining in Paris. Well, almost. Bruno Cirino's cooking at Antoine in the Hotel Meridien, part of a French chain, is probably as close to Paris as you can get without boarding an airplane. In the United States for less than a year, Cirino is still imbued with the purity of nouvelle cuisine; still free of the influences that, with time, are bound to draw him into other dimensions of cooking. For now, Cirino, the handpicked choice of the hotel's consultant, Jacques Maximin, the premier chef in France today, dazzles with a subtle, gossamer-light touch. (For those who follow the chefs' scene in Los Angeles, Maximin is also the mentor of chefs Joachim Splichal of Max Au Triangle and Laurent Quenioux of Seventh Street Bistro.) Cirino prepared for us sea bass fillets encrusted with a mixture of fresh herbs, which he roasts rather than steams for a strong, surprising emphasis. The cooked fish is surrounded by a bevy of stuffed miniature vegetables (among them zucchini flowers available in specialty markets). These vegetables create a soft border of color for the fish and a lovely surprise for an elegant meal. Another surprise: The dish is easy to prepare. ROASTED SEA BASS WITH CRUST OF HERBS

1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped

1 bunch chervil, chopped

1 sprig thyme, chopped

4 basil leaves, chopped

2 1/2 cups butter

2 cups torn white bread

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

2 pounds fillets of sea bass, cut into 6 portions

6 baby Japanese eggplants

6 cherry tomatoes

6 small white onions

6 baby artichokes

6 baby new potatoes

6 baby zucchini flowers

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup water

1 bunch chives, chopped

Combine parsley, chervil, thyme and basil. Mix herbs with 2 cups soft butter, bread, salt and pepper. Spread mixture on each of the 6 fillets of sea bass. Refrigerate.

Cut off tops of eggplants, tomatoes, onions, artichokes and potatoes. Reserve tops. Scoop out vegetable cavities using a small teaspoon. Chop removed pulp and set aside. Rinse zucchini flowers to prepare for stuffing. Saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add vegetable pulp and saute 7 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese, eggs and season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Cool. Stuff vegetable shells with vegetable mixture. Stuff zucchini flowers with mixture, twisting tips to seal. Place vegetable tops back on shells to cover. Tie vegetables with string or fasten with wood pick, if necessary, to keep filling in place during cooking. Place stuffed vegetables in skillet large enough to hold in a single layer. Add water to bottom of pan. Cover pan and simmer over medium-low heat 5 minutes, adding more water if necessary to keep vegetables from scorching. Add 1/2 cup butter to cooking liquid. Add chives, and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook sea bass at 400 degrees 8 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness, then brown under broiler about 4 inches from source of heat 7 to 10 minutes, until fish tests done. Place fillet in center of each plate. Then arrange one of each vegetable around the fish. Pour chive sauce over vegetables. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Any available baby vegetables can be used.


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