Joël Robuchon

You say tomato, the Chef of the Century says tomate

When we asked legendary French chef Joël Robuchon to name his ideal summer dish, we didn’t need to translate: “le plat aux tomate.”

“For summer you’re definitely going to see dishes that are a little more simple, really stripped down to the minimum, [with] fresh seasonal ingredients. We could see a very nice tomato salad,” he decrees of his restaurant’s summer menu, arriving this month.

Although tomatoes are available year-round, they are never quite right until summer. At the peak of its season (July through September in Nevada), a good tomato is sweet, flavorful and juicy, what Robuchon refers to as “summer love apples.” He uses them to create one of his most popular summer dishes.

The first recipe in his new cookbook, Best of Joël Robuchon, a mille-feuille (a thousand leaves) of tomato and crab, is a sweet-and-sour play of flavors with layers of crab, apple, avocado, watercress and thin slices of tomato. The book includes helpful photos, and the “Chef of the Century” assuages readers with encouragement: “Do not be intimidated by the apparent complexity of the recipe: It is simpler than it looks.” And if all else fails, his restaurants at the MGM Grand do all the work for you.

Mille-feuille with Tomato and Crab

From The Best of Joël Robuchon: His 10 Greatest Recipes Step-By-Step in Pictures (De Gustibus—Alain Ducasse Entreprise, $12.60). Serves 4.

16 large tomatoes

2 cooked brown crabs, 1 kilogram each

1 sprig tarragon

1 pinch curry powder

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

Juice of 1 lemon

10 attractive lettuce leaves

½ bunch watercress

1 Granny Smith apple

1 avocado

1 dash of chlorophyll to garnish

15 centiliters vinaigrette

10 centiliters olive oil

10 centiliters sherry vinegar

Freshly ground pepper

Sea salt

8 sprigs chervil

Tomato Coulis

200 grams tomato flesh

35 grams tomato puree

50 grams ketchup

7½ centiliters sherry vinegar

Celery salt

Freshly ground pepper

Few drops of Tabasco

7½ centiliters olive oil

Peel the tomatoes and cut 12-by-5 centimeter strips in their outer flesh. Arrange on a tray, cover with another tray and rest 2-3 hours. Shell the crab, shredding the meat with a fork while removing the cartilage. Weigh out 240 grams of the meat. Save the crab “butter” (fat) by scooping it out with a spoon and pushing it through a sieve using the back of the spoon. Chop the tarragon. Combine the crabmeat, curry powder, tarragon, 3 tablespoons of the mayonnaise, lemon juice and crab butter. Wash and dry the lettuce, then chiffonade the leaves. Wash and dry the watercress; remove the stems then chop the leaves. Dice the apple into 5-millimeter cubes. Halve the avocado, and dice into 5-millimeter cubes. To prepare the tomato coulis, blend the tomato flesh and add the tomato purée, ketchup, vinegar, celery salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce and olive oil one by one. Push the flesh through a chinois (conical strainer) twice and refrigerate. To build the mille-feuille, pour the tomato coulis onto the plates. Mix the remaining mayonnaise with the chlorophyll. Pipe small green dots around the coulis. Separately season the lettuce and watercress with a little vinaigrette. Mix the diced apple and avocado, and season with a little vinaigrette. Trickle some olive oil and vinegar onto the tomato strips. Add pepper and sea salt. Scatter some lettuce over the top. Cover with a layer of seasoned crab, top with a strip of tomato, then watercress and the apple-avocado mixture. Repeat with a layer of tomatoes, lettuce, crab and another layer of tomatoes. Repeat for the other mille-feuille. Cut into diamond shapes. Using a fork, add a trickle of oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt. Place each mille-feuille in the middle of the plate, with a chervil sprig at either end, and serve cold.