For the final exam of culinary school, my class and I were tasked with creating a 5-course tasting menu for 10-12 people. I was lucky enough to persuade my friends to allow me to create the recipe for the amuse-bouche, which was the only dish without any restrictions--we could make whatever we wanted. My thoughts focused on being delicate, yet rich; small, yet substantial. And from these contrasting concepts, the sea bream crudo/ceviche hybrid was born. —Matthew Bounous
For the lemon confit, remove the zest of the lemons using a peeler and make a fine julienne of the lemon zest strips. Then, cut the lemon in half and juice them. Weigh the lemon juice and add half of the juice's weight in water--so if you have 150g Lemon Juice, add 75g water. And finally, 1.5 tablespoons of sugar for each lemon used, so in this case, 4.5tablespoons of sugar. Combine all of these ingredients in a small pot, cover with a bit of parchment paper in direct contact with the lemon confit, bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a low-simmer for approximately 1.5hrs. When the julienne strips of zest are translucent and tender, then the confit is finished and can be kept in the fridge. Note: if the liquid evaporates too quickly, add a tablespoon of water at a time to keep the confit from burning/caramelizing.
Now for fun part. First prepare the fish if it is not already trimmed, skinned and filleted. The weight that I noted above is for a full, head-on sea bream, so if you are buying a pre-filleted fish, assume 60% loss when trimming, so you will need about 1lb of fish for ten people. Leave the fish fillets to rest in the fridge.
Peel the oranges and the grapefruit, juicing half of the grapefruit and two of the oranges. Set aside half of the Segment the remaining half of grapefruit and the final orange. Remove the seeds from the segments and carefully brunoise the segments to make small, roughly 2mm by 2mm cubes of citrus. Note: if you would like to go an extra step, you can dehydrate the brunoise in a low-oven over night, but this is not necessary.
Take the sea bream fillets from the fridge and using your sharpest carving knife, cut thin (approx 1-2mm thick) slices of sea bream and lay them on a flat bottom, non-stick tray. Take the juice of the grapefruit and the juice of one orange and combine them with a pinch of maldon sea salt, then pour it over the fish in the tray and let rest in the fridge for 30-45minutes--until the edges of the sea bream have the acid-cooked ceviche look, but the center is still raw. Remove the slices to a new tray, saving the juice. Put the fish back in the fridge.
With the marinating juice, put it into a small pan and bring to a boil and reduce by half. Add the juice from the remaining orange to taste and finish the sauce with salt and a drop of nice olive oil. Chill in the fridge.
Time for plating. Lay a small bed of sea bream slices on each plate. Top with the citrus brunoise around the slices. A small touch of lemon confit piled in the center of the crudo. Sprinkle with maldon sea salt, freshly cracked pepper and espelette chili powder. Finish by drizzling the cold sauce around the fish and adorn the plate with shiso leaves, baby arugula and borage flowers for color. Note: for our final menu, we used a unique plate that changed the plating of the dish from what I described above; however, the spirit of the dish is the same.