FOR PSYCHIATRIST Justin Frank and his psychologist wife, Micheline, cooking and entertaining is an integral part of their lives.
"All my life I have understood the symbolism behind breaking bread together," explained Justin Frank. "Like all things, it began with my mother, who is a fabulous cook. Sharing food means so much: signs of affection, love-giving, all the cliche's."
Fourteen years ago, while on a fellowship in London to study adolescent psychiatry, Frank met Micheline Klagsbrun, whose family was accustomed to dining in fine restaurants throughout Europe. When Micheline came to Maine on vacation, she and Justin cooked their first meal together: boiled lobsters with a bottle of Montrachet that Micheline brought with her from London.
The culinary romance continued in the kitchen of Justin's efficiency apartment in Washington. The following spring Justin and Micheline entertained 150 friends at the first of their now-legendary annual spring parties.
As their romance flourished, so did their interest in food. On a prewedding honeymoon in Turkey (Justin's psychiatric residency would interfere with any traveling plans after their October wedding), they met Andre Rosine, a chef from Martinique who owned La Madinina, a restaurant in Paris. For a week the three traveled together, discussing techniques of cooking as they ate their way along the coast of Turkey, peeking into restaurant kitchens to make sure the fish was really fresh. "I learned to make octopus from Andre. It was the first thing I tried when I returned to the States," said Justin Frank.
Thus began a cooking and entertaining friendship that was renewed at least twice a year for a decade in both Washington and Paris, during the Franks' summer vacations. Once, in a dilapidated French cha teau, Rosine decided that he wanted to make an American brunch, something he had heard about but never experienced. Frank spent half a day in a French village trying to locate an approximation of Canadian bacon and English muffins for eggs benedict. The guardian of the cha teau offered a fresh-caught rabbit to go with it.
Two years ago, the Franks decided to take a sabbatical and travel through Europe working in the best restaurants, sometimes with Andre.
With Justin in the restaurant fish stations and Micheline in the pastry stations, the two learned about the role of the professional chef. One of the most difficult lessons for Justin was to understand the strict hierarchy governing the chef and the kitchen staff. "Even if I sometimes didn't feel like 'the chef,' when it was my turn to prepare a meal with Andre and Micheline, they looked to me for orders. 'Me giving them orders?' I kept thinking."
At Le Chantecler in Nice, the chef created an entire lobster menu. The Franks, recognizing the outrageous price of lobster, transferred this idea to an entire salmon menu beginning with salmon tartare, followed by thin slices of marinated salmon, salmon soup, and hot salmon with shallots and red wine.
Last year Andre Rosine left his restaurants in Paris and moved into the Franks' Georgetown house. Sipping rum with lime, the three prepare menus together. Micheline and Andre concentrate on restraining Justin, whose menus tend to include too many fish dishes and rich foods (he has been known to serve an octopus pie as one course, then to follow it with a chocolate tarte for dessert).
This year's annual party was a simple champagne reception at the Franks' home to kick off a new joint enterprise, a restaurant called Micheline, which opened last week in Georgetown. Justin's Poached Salmon With Tomato and Basil Serves 6 to 8
3 pounds filleted and boned salmon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
15 leaves basil, cut in little strips
Carrots, turnips and zucchini, optional
Poach the salmon in water to cover, using a guide of 10 minutes to the inch at the thickest point.
Briefly saute' the garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add tomatoes and cook about 3 or 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the saute' pan from the heat, add the basil and dribble with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
Serve with the salmon and, if you wish, carrots, turnips and zucchini, which have also been poached with the salmon.
JOAN NATHAN contributes regularly to The Magazine on entertaining.