Maurice Staehle's wife says when friends phone, they often say such things as, "We were thinking of stopping by for a glass of wine." Or, "Could we come over and play cards?"
The translation, according to Joan Staehle: What's for dinner?
Maurice Staehle is a fourth-generation French chef. For the better part of the past two decades, Staehle has performed culinary coups de maitre in his native Colmar, France, and in Paris, London, Bermuda, Nova Scotia and California--most recently as general manager of the Registry Hotel's Le Chardonnay restaurant in Irvine. Retired in 1985, he spends his days managing investments and cooking for his wife and their friends in the Staehles' airy, white-on-white home in Newport Beach.
The Frenchman and his English wife keep two well-stocked refrigerators and a storage freezer--enough food, one suspects, to maintain the couple and their English springer spaniel (who eats only chicken, baked or boiled; no dog food, thank you very much) for months. Or maybe not.
"In France you eat a big lunch, and in England you eat a big dinner," Staehle says, grinning. "We do both."
For every meal, the Staehles set their table carefully--floral centerpiece, artfully folded cloth napkins--and Maurice decorates their plates with herbs and baby vegetables from their garden.
"So much of cooking is presentation," he says. "Your eyes eat first, then you taste the food. Something is lost if you just slop food on a plate."
Each week, Orange County Life will feature a man who enjoys cooking and his favorite recipe. Tell us about your candidate. Write Guys and Galleys, Orange County Edition, L.A. Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa 92626.
FILET OF SALMON WITH CHIVES AND WHITE WINE SAUCE
8 oz. filet of salmon
1 small shallot, chopped
1 cup chenin blanc
1 oz. fresh chives
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 oz. sweet butter
Place the filet of salmon in a skillet with the chopped shallot and the chenin blanc. Add salt and pepper.
Cook at low heat on the stove top, then in a 375-degree oven, for 6-7 minutes. Do not boil. Remove fish from skillet and keep warm.
Reduce the liquid by cooking over high heat until it begins to thicken. Do not burn.
Add the cream and continue to heat until mixture has consistency of a sauce. Add finely cut chives and 1 oz. of sweet butter.
Serve sauce of fish and accompany with rice or a medley of mushrooms.