Cooking

Gabe Thompson's Secret Weapon

Get funky using this bass dressing with preserved lemons
Photos: Tasting Table
Bass Dressing

Preserved lemon is one of chef Gabe Thompson's favorite ingredients. He loves its saltiness, its perfume and how it adds intensity to even simple white rice. So when developing a relish-like condiment to use in his kitchen at New York's L'Apicio, Thompson looked to the funky lemons for all of those things.

He soaks the lemons overnight to temper their saltiness, then adds hot pickled pepper juice for heat, chopped shallots for bite and fresh lemon zest for brightness and to reinforce the preserved lemon's citrusy flavor. The resulting "bass dressing" (named for the fish on which it was first served) has a heat, tang and "super-savory taste" that he employs across all sorts of dishes (see the recipe). Here are five of his favorite ways to bring it home.

Bass Mayo: Strain some of the liquid off the bass dressing then whisk together equal parts dressing and mayonnaise for a more texturally interesting version of Thousand Island. Slather it onto turkey, lamb or fried fish sandwiches for a salty, tart contrast you don't get from mayo alone. Or add a tablespoon of bass dressing directly to a cup of tuna or shredded chicken along with as much mayo as you like for a creamy salad that needs little else.

Simple Salad Dressing: For a dressing that stands up to hearty chicory, endive or radicchio salads, whisk together equal parts bass dressing (with its liquid), lemon juice or vinegar, and olive oil. Add grated pecorino cheese and Marcona almonds for full-on flavor. Or for a creamy, Caesar-like vinaigrette, add extra oil, a tablespoon of chopped white anchovies and a whip of fresh-cracked black pepper.

Seasoned Rice: "Cooking preserved lemon in rice is awesome," Thompson says, "but seasoning rice with the bass dressing is even better." He cooks rices with warm, nutty aromas like jasmine or basmati and adds a tablespoon of dressing per cup of rice during its final fluff. That rice is put to use in juicy dishes like braised lamb shanks, stewed fish or roasted chicken. "The rice has its own flavor but also soaks up the broth of whatever you serve it with," Thompson says.

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Crudo Garnish: Because bass dressing has such a full flavor, it brings a lot to raw crudo-style dishes made with subtle fish like tuna or hamachi. Season the fish with a touch of salt, and then add olive oil and lemon or lime juice. Plate the slices, then top each with a mini spoonful of the dressing. For some creamy fat and neutral flavor, add thin slices of avocado. For sweetness that complements the heat and acidity of the bass dressing, add thinly shaved raw beets.

Roasted Vegetables: Bass dressing matches vegetables with a touch of bitterness, like broccoli rabe, and loves veggies with lots of nooks and crannies, like heads of broccoli or cauliflower. Crank up your oven to 400 degrees and place a sheet pan inside for about 10 minutes while you prep. Cut the vegetables into small pieces and toss them with salt, pepper and olive oil. Throw them onto the hot sheet pan and put it back in the oven to get a beautiful sear on the outside of the produce. Pull the sheet pan out when the vegetables are just browned and immediately scoop a few spoonfuls of dressing on top, tossing thoroughly to coat.

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