FOR THIS DISH, I imagined good old Kentucky bourbon aging in cedar barrels, taking their flavor from the old wood. Now, we take a flavorful sheet of that cedarwood wrapped around a log of kampachi, the firm, white fish from the yellowtail family. In fact, the thin cedar “paper” is soaked for 12 hours in the liquor and then another 12 hours in olive oil. When it touches the fish, it is already rich with spirit. Simply grilled, it will yield a light smoky flavor that intensifies as it’s presented to the table on top of smoldering coals before its final undressing. The sauce diable, a classic in the French repertoire, is the spiciest of all sauces, but to tame it and just enhance the fish, we pair it with a touch of sesame tahini.
Pour the bourbon into a shallow dish and submerge the cedar paper for 12 hours. Strain, then submerge in the olive oil for another 12 hours.
At least 4 hours before cooking the kampachi, season it on all sides with the piment d’Espelette, paprika, and salt and pepper. Wrap the fish in the cedar paper and secure with butcher’s twine; reserve, chilled.
For the Eggplant Chips
Fill one-third of a large saucepan with canola oil and heat to 300°F. Preheat the oven to 190°F. Using a mandoline, slice the eggplant lengthwise into thin strips. Fry the slices one at a time, keeping them submerged in the oil just until limp. With tongs or a heatproof strainer, transfer the slices to a Silpat-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Pat dry and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 4 hours, or until the eggplant slices are crisp but not colored. Store in an airtight container (you can add rice or stale bread to the container to keep the chips crisp).
For the Pickled Red Onion
Cut the onion in half and separate it into layers. Cut the layers into ¼-inch triangles and transfer them to a heatproof container. Combine the pickling liquid and spices in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour over the onion and store, chilled.
For the Paprika Oil
In a small saucepan, combine the paprika and olive oil over low heat. Bring to a simmer, while whisking, for 1 minute, being sure not to let it burn. Remove from the heat. Line a sieve with a coffee filter and set over a dry container. Strain the oil through the filter and set aside.
For the Romano Beans
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and set a bowl of ice water on the side. Cut the beans on a bias into ¼-inch-thick pieces. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes, until tender, and then chill in the ice water. Reserve, chilled.
For the Creamy Tahini Sauce
In a small bowl, whisk to combine the tahini, cream, salt, and lemon juice. Adjust the seasoning with Tabasco sauce. Transfer to a squeeze bottle or pastry bag with a small tip.
For the Sauce Diable
In a medium saucepan, combine the white wine, shallot, piment d’Espelette, cayenne, and black pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce until almost dry, and add the vinegar and jus. Bring to a simmer and reserve, kept warm. Just before serving, stir in the chopped parsley.
For the Honey-Glazed Eggplant
Quarter the eggplant lengthwise and slice away the seeds. Cut the remaining strips into at least twelve ½-inch triangles. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant skin side up and sear until golden, about 1 minute. Strain any excess oil from the pan and add the honey and vinegar. Simmer, while stirring, until the eggplant is tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Allow the fish to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes and preheat a grill or cast-iron grill pan to high heat. Transfer the grilled eggplant puree to a small saucepan over medium heat and stir to heat through; add the parsley. Warm the olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat and add the Romano beans and tomato confit; toss to heat through and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fish in the wood for 1 minute on each of the 4 sides. Rest in a warm place for 3 minutes before serving.
If desired, line a serving dish or dinner plate with charcoal and wood chips and ignite them until they smoke. Place the fish on top as a presentation.
For each serving, paint a long straight streak of paprika oil on one side of a large dinner plate and pipe around its perimeter with creamy tahini sauce. Unwrap a portion of fish and set in the center of the plate. On the opposite side of the plate from the paprika, arrange 4 eggplant triangles, 3 spoonfuls of grilled eggplant puree, 3 pieces of tomato confit, and 4 pieces of Romano beans in a rectangle set parallel to the oil. Stand 2 eggplant chips against the long sides of the vegetables. Garnish the vegetables with 3 nasturtium leaves and spoon the sauce on top of the kampachi.