Thursday, December 30, 2010
So I lied about having Graham Elliot in this post. It will be in the next one. Im just too lazy to write up two lengthy tasting menus in one sitting. Now on to Moto. Let me start by saying once again I was hesitant to take photos as when I started my menu I was one of two guests in the dining room and there were a lot of waiters and it was stuffy and...well Im a huge pussy and dont want to stick out ever. Because of this, I am borrowing all of my photos from this lovely Japanese blog. Its actually kind of fun to read with google translate. Anyway, my afterthought of my dinner at Moto was...is this some kind of joke that Chicago likes to play on out-of-towners? There were some signs of brilliance, and some overall good dishes...but as a whole, the dinner was lackluster and full of things being done for the sake of doing them. Throughout my time in culinary school, my chef instructors would constantly drill one thing into the students head. NFG are NFG. Non functional garnishes are no fucking good. I feel like this applies to moto...but in a more grand way. Not so much garnishes but dishes that left me thinking why the hell would they do this or use that or whatever. If chef Homaro Cantu learned a little restraint I could see it becoming a stellar restaurant. But for now he strikes me as that kid who hangs out with your group of friends who nobody actually likes because they're constantly trying way too hard to be noticed. But maybe Im the douche because the dining room at this ridiculous expensive restaurant was packed on a cold, dreary Tuesday night.
I do want to be clear that I fully understand how personal food is and I try not to fault chefs who do things that Im not crazy about. I respect what Cantu is trying to do, however the more I think about how much I paid for this dinner, the less I want to hide my criticism. The front of the house service was top notch and polished. No complaints on that end. The music selection was a little strange though...it was exactly the same obnoxious clubby stuff you would hear in some shitty trendy clothing store.
I started off with a cocktail - the Cucumber GINger - featuring ginger infused gin, lillet blanc, fresh ginger, and cucumber. It was served in a Erlenmeyer flask, with a straw and frozen twist of cucumber. The drink tasted like cucumber simple syrup. I did not pick up on any ginger flavor, which was the main reason why I ordered the drink.
The amuse...or maybe bread service, depending on how you want to look at it..was my menu. This is kind of a signature dish at Moto. The twist for the evening was a gourmet fluffernutter sandwich. This was one of my favorite courses. It had pleasing textures and flavors, a nice play of sweet and salty. The downfall is how tricky it was to eat while trying not to look like a complete fool. I enjoyed watching other diners tackel this throughout the evening.
Margarita ceviche/Snow Man - A simple tartare of ahi tuna (which was stellar quality) topped with a snowman of lime foam, dotted with hawiian black salt and himalayan pink salt. The waiter then poured a cocktail of tequilla, gojiberry juice, and some other stuff that escaped me. The overall effect was OK. The cocktail and lime foam were a bit overwhelming and took away from the high quality of the tuna.
CO2 Grapefruit/White Steel - This was, overall, my favorite dish of the evening. When the waiter presented this dish, they noted that the overall effect was to mimic a gin and tonic. With the use of carbonation, citrus, vanilla, and juniper I thought that it may work - but it didnt. Instead it was just a nice dish. The coho salmon was oil poached, and meltingly tender. This was one of the finest pieces of fish I have ever had. The hearts of palm, vanilla bean puree was velvety and slightly sweet and paired well with the salmon. My grapefruit segment was not particularly carbonated - I am familiar with this technique and realize that it is something that needs to be served ASAP in order to achieve the effect. No harm no foul. The fruit still served its purpose, cutting through the richness and fattiness lingering on the palate.
Chicken Noodle - This was another successful dish. It was very salty - but when it comes to roasted chicken or chicken soup, I enjoy it to be somewhat over seasoned. The noodle was made with dehydrated, pulverized chicken replacing some of the flour in the recipe. This worked rather nicely, creating a very savory and flavorful noodle. It was, however, a bit al dente for my taste. Im not sure if this just happens because of the chicken in the noodle or what..oh well. The powder...tasted like chicken, Im not sure what they said it was supposed to be. Ive never been a huge fan of powders made this way - using tapioca maltodextrin. They look beautiful and do serve some purpose but they always wind up feeling pasty and unpleasant in my mouth. The little chip you see was crispy chicken skin, which was VERY crunchy and sharp...not quite what I hoped it would be. The mirepoix puree was very flavorful and rich.
Golden twist ale - I was told this was a ode to Wisconsin. The garnishes (brunoise of dehydrated shallot, cheddar, chives, and maybe something else) were served dry in the bowl. The waiter then opened an anonymous bottle of beer and poured the pretzel broth into the bowl. The garnishes were out of whack tasting almost entirely of chewy shallots. The broth was much too sweet. I did not enjoy this dish at all.
At this point I had finished my cocktail and ordered a Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout, which I nursed for the rest of the evening. Its a great beer if you have never had it. Not a far cry from a chocolate stout.
Lobster & Brown Butter - As server told me that this was supposed to mimic a New England clam bake she picked up the candle at the table and said, 'no clam bake is complete without butter' She then extinguished the flame and poured the 'wax' (brown butter) over the dish. I assumed something like this would happen throughout the dinner but for some reason did not expect this - it was playful and nicely executed. So on the plate, there was an acorn squash (I THINK?) puree, potato gnocchi (what looks like a scallop) a couple nice clams, some lobster and a fork with some thyme in the handle. The thyme was not very aromatic, so the effect was lost. The gnocchi were kind of gummy. The lobster was tough. The butter had a strange smoky flavor that I actually kind of liked. Overall this was just meh.
Yellow snow - Same complaint with the powder as usual. This time it was very strongly flavored. The dish was supposed to be pineapple curry. I guess it succeeded in that, but it tasted kind of like crappy curry bricks or frozen curry.
Baseball snacks/Quail with crackerjack - This course was wayyyyyy too sweet. The pear and candy apple (..I think) puree was tasty but belonged on a dessert plate. The coca cola reduction was as nauseatingly sweet, as you would expect. The quail was nice, but the peanut coating was too thick. The paper was silly.
Astronaut tartare - Freeze-dried prime rib with a tartare of traditional tartare accompaniments...This was a nice departure from the previous, sickeningly sweet course. Had a nice kick to it.
Cuban cigar - Another signature dish - one of the best of the night. Pulled pork wrapped in braised green, red pepper coulis, ash made from some stuff...it was salty but yummy. Very satisfying in ways other courses were not.
Forest roll/Rabbit maki - The gimmick is its not sushi. Amazingly-tough-for-being-sous-vide sous vide rabbit, mushroom paper, sticky rice risotto (gross), pickled diakon (dyed with beet juice), some sort of aioli and dried pea. I did not like this at all. Salty, mushy, unpleasant.
Nuac Man/Maitake & Pork Belly - I have no clue what nuca man is supposed to mean but the only thing that came to mind was nuoc mam, the delicious fish sauce condiment found in vietnamese cuisine. This in no way shape or form resembled that. I dont know if thats what they were going for or what but...yeah. Pork belly was OK. The gai lan was...gai lan. The maitake mushrooms were ok...the meringue mushroom made from the liquid from pureed mushrooms was...stupid. It was super salty.
Shabu Shabuccino - Shabu shabu that is supposed to be like a cappuccino. Hum. The espresso was a thick broth made with black garlic. There was some veggies in there and some thinly sliced beef. The foam was potato. The sugar cube was compacted truffle powder. This dish as a whole was similar to eating a packet of beef ramen seasoning. And not good ramen either. Crappy Top ramen. It was SUPER salty...the beef was very difficult to eat with a teaspoon (the slices were very large). This is what I imagine eating beef base would taste like. If you like eating salt, youll love this dish.
Alley-yum - The venison on this dish was very nice..tender..flavorful. All the individual components (fried shallot, braised green onion, onion puree, onion chip, roasted red onion, pickled cippolini) were nice...but really it was overwhelming. Too much of a (kind of) good thing.
No picture but thats okay. It was a chestnut spritz cookie. Unassuming. I knew it couldn't be that simple. It was a frozen puree. Wish I knew because of my sensitive teeth!
Frites, frozen and fried - I loved this course. One of the least showy courses and it was good. Sweet potato fries and sorbet. Some crunchy shit underneath. Sage pudding. It worked and it worked well.
Green curry lime - kind of a intermezzo. Made up of a trio of gels, some coconut oil, and lime vesicles. Not horrible but I wouldnt say it tasted of green curry. More like lime that was spicy.
Banana Split - Frozen banana mousse (ok) freeze-dried peanut powder, caramel, chocolate, strawberry sauces. Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Nothing special.
Acme bomb - I loved this. It was playful and cute. They said it was filled with graham cracker and marshmallow...but it felt like a completely liquid center. Dont know what was going on really but it was very very sweet. And fun.
Cookie crumbs/Earl grey & chocolate - Made up of tea cookie crumbs, freeze-dried raspberry pieces, earl grey ice cream (awesome), chocolate mousse underneath, and I think some orange something in there. Cant remember what the crispy tuille things are. Not bad...the cookie crumbs were a bit stale which messed with the mouthfeel of the whole dessert. The earl grey ice cream was awesome.
Tonka Bean Flavors - An edible packaging peanut and tonka bean soda. Frozen table side in liquid nitrogen, the peanut was vanilla (or so I was told) and tasted exactly like a styrofoam peanut. The tonka bean soda was like drinking a really gross syrup. Not good at all.
Okay so the table in front of me and next to me both got this course and seemed to really love it so I asked if I could give it a try. The kitchen was very accommodating and sent it out very quickly. It was a literal interpretation of a crab cake, made of a yellow sponge cake with king crab in it, lemon cream cheese frosting, fennel frond oil, poached fennel, and squash ice cream. The cake was okay, I think if its explored a bit more it could be successful. The cream cheese icing was a bit much. The fennel was good (can fennel be bad?). The squash ice cream was on top of some pulverized squash seeds which stuck to my teeth like sunflower seed shells do. The ice cream was VERY strongly flavored and not that great. The dish was kind of all over the place but I can see some brilliance in there somewhere, with a bit of refinement that is.
So...its no secret. I was not impressed at all with Moto. The flavors were all over the board, as was the seasoning. Many dishes were tacky and in desperate need of refinement. While I havent been to Alinea yet, I would imagine that you would be much better off spending that money there. Or anywhere for that matter.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
We skipped town just ahead of the a blizzard that dropped a foot and a half of snow (correct me if I'm wrong). The drive was long, but relatively pleasant. When we got to Chicago we quickly unloaded the car and unpacked. My gracious roommate then drove us around the city for a while, showing us some neighborhoods and restaurants, as well as other points of interest. We then had breakfast at Eggsperience in River North. Eggsperience has a large menu of relatively standard breakfast fare, as well as truly behemoth portions.
Chorizo Omelette - Chorizo, tomatoes, onions, pepperjack, and jalapeno
Farmstand Frittata - Spinach, mushrooms, bacon, jack & cheddar
After breakfast we went back to the apartment to relax a bit and plan out the rest of the day. Exhausted from the trip, we all wound up napping longer than expected. We then headed to the West Loop for dinner at Blackbird. Blackbirds chef, Paul Kahan, seems to be one of the most popular chefs in Chicago. Also under his wing are Avec and The Publican (which smelled amazing as I walked past it on my way to Moto). We were a bit hesitant to photograph our dinner as the menu requests no cell phones...So let it be known any pictures from here on are scoured from the web. We started off with a round of cocktails, each of which were wonderfully flavored and balanced. These were the best drinks I have had in a long time. The Blackbird Orange (Koval Rye Chicago, Spiced Honey, Orange Juice, Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters) was refreshing and perfectly balanced and not overly sweet as most drinks seem to be.
Oz - Pierre Ferran Ambre, Plum Wine, Apple Cider Syrup, Sparkling Wine. My least favorite of the three, but still a great drink.
London Calling - Plymouth, Pimms, Apple Butter, Cucumber Soda. Not overly sweet or too heavy with cucumber (a common issue I have with cucumber drinks) - this was reminiscent of milled cider, but better and more balanced.
Smoked suckling pig with hama hama oyster, fall giardiniera, sunchokes, and hazelnuts.
Octopus confit with celery root, crispy tuscan kale, caviar and red navel orange. The octopus was fork tender.
Blue hill bay buchot mussel soup with whitefish, saffron, garlic, and basil. This was the weakest dish of the evening.
Roasted chicken and sausage with cauliflower, maitake mushrooms, kaffir limes, and applewood broth. The chicken and sausage was done as a ballontine, and incredibly executed. All the accompaniments were great.
Alaskan sablefish and sweet potato brandade, shrimp brased onions, turmeric and pickled cranberries. Amazing all around. The fish was some of the best I have ever had, the brandade complimented it perfectly - as did the pickled cranberries and other accompaniments.
We also ordered three desserts (sorry for the lack of photos):
Phyllo brittle with caramelized white chocolate, almond yogurt, blood orange, aperol and cranberry sorbet. A stunningly beautiful dessert. The sorbet was the highlight.
Phyllo brittle with caramelized white chocolate, almond yogurt, blood orange, aperol and cranberry sorbet. A stunningly beautiful dessert. The sorbet was the highlight.
Banana pain perdu with butterscotch, malt, pine nut, and burbon barrel wood ice cream. This was the best of the three - all the components worked beautifully together. The ice cream was fantastic.
Graham cracker puff pastry with tonka bean, cinnamon, marshmallow, pumpkin, and milk chocolate ice cream. This was the only dessert we weren't crazy about.
Overall, Blackbird was a fantastic experience. The service was impeccable and the food was truly great. They offer a $22 3 course lunch as well as a $100 11 course (including amuse and intermezzo) dinner menu, both of which I plan on checking out while I'm in town.
Monday, December 20, 2010
To my one blog follower, I apologize for the general lack of activity on this blog. Life happens, you know? Let me bring you up to speed. I graduated from (community) college - started working at a upscale steakhouse/golf course/'thing' in Saratoga Springs, NY. Then I stopped working there to focus on some other things. One week from now, I will be moving to Chicago to make some pastries for about 6 months. I've been to Chicago once, and know very little about the city (aside from the restaurants I have already made reservations at). SO, in an attempt to stay in contact with people at home without actually having to pick up a phone, I will *hopefully* update this thing with some regularity.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard
A pdf of the recipe can be downloaded here
Not a bad dessert at all. As far as the recipe goes - I did include the Grand Marnier, but not the Sambuca, and if I were to make it again I would reduce the amount of lemon zest. Other than that, its pretty spot on. Now for what I did differently: After baking my meringues for about 30 minutes, I pulled them from the oven and let them cool. At this point, they weren't far from the texture/consistency of a flourless cake. I scooped out the center and then put them back in the oven until they were crisp. I then filled the meringues with the mascarpone mousse rather than topping them with it. Heres a shot of the inside:
I want to thank Dawn for the challenge this month, this was the first pavlova I have made and certainly wont be the last.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Living in upstate New York has the advantage of being in close proximity to several major cities. Earlier this week, Sheena and I made the trip to Montreal. When we arrived, we had a quick lunch in Chinatown. After that we walked around and did a little shopping. From there we went to the Jean-Talon Market, which was one of the most amazing outdoor markets either of us have been to. We are looking forward to returning later in the summer when the market is at its peak. To end the day, we had some light fare at Au Pied De Cochon.
We started with the Accra de Morue. These were served with a lovely house mayo:
Next up was the Roti de Porcelet. This was very nice, but somewhat uneventful:
We also tried the Soupe a l'Oignon Gratine, which included lots of yummy pork:
For our entrees, we shared some Poutine:
I had the famous Canard en Conserve, aka Duck in a Can:
Sheena had La Coupe PDC, which is a behemoth (0.5 kg) pork chop:
For dessert we had some espresso with an exceptional Creme Brulee:
Au Pied De Cochon certainly lived up to its expectations - everything was incredibly rich and satisfying. We both left in a daze from the enormous portions. The service at the restaurant was among the best I have ever experienced, everyone seemed so natural in their position. We saw a few seafood platters go to another table, both of which looked incredible. We are really looking forward to trying them next time we are in Montreal.
Au Pied De Cochon
536 Duluth Est
Monday, May 31, 2010
**New submissions added, 6/2/2010**
Last month I asked bloggers to try and create a dish that features both sage and roasted peanuts. On the surface, the combination seems..marginally interesting, but as everyone seems to have figured out...they certainly go together. Almost too well. In my announcement I also noted a few ingredients that shared volatile compounds with both sage and roasted peanuts, and I was happy to see them used in a few entries. I will highlight those ingredients in bold wherever they were used.
The first submission I received was from Dan Perlman at www.saltshaker.net with his Sage and Roasted Peanut Pork Chop :
Dan marinated his pork in fresh orange juice with sage leaves, salt, pepper, and a chopped hot chili. He then brushed them with peanut oil and grilled them to finish. He topped the chops with a 'pesto' made of fried sage leaves, roasted peanuts, roasted garlic, salt, pepper, and peanut oil; and garnished them with a couple fried sage leaves. The chops were accompanied by a lentil dish made of bacon, shallots, sweet potatoes, lentils, fresh sage, salt, pepper and dried sage.
Dan said, "This dish was, and I do say so myself, amazingly, mouthwateringly good. The combination of all the various grilled, roasted, toasted, and fried flavors all came together beautifully -- caramelization is like that. The hints of orange and chili that came from the pork made a nice counterpoint so that it didn't get all too sage-y and peanut-y. And I liked the mix of the flavors that came from using the sage in different forms -- fried, fresh, and dried"
The second submission I received was from Martin Lersch at blog.khymos.org with his Gnocchi with Peanuts and Sage:
Martin combined mashed boiled potatoes, ground peanuts, butter, salt, egg, and flour to create his dough, which he then rolled into gnocchi. He then briefly cooked the gnocchi in boiling salted water. He served the gnocchi with melted butter, chopped sage, black pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese.
Martin said, "The amount of peanuts used gave a noticeable, yet mild nutty flavor which actually fitted the gnocchi quite nice (for future gnocchi attempts I can imagine even trying other nuts as well, such as hazelnuts or walnuts). The sage works very well as an aromatic and fresh component together with the more 'heavy' flavors of potato, butter, and Parmesan. And frankly, I must say that the gnocchi were a success!"
Martin also noted, "While cooking I tried to chew some peanuts with a sage leaf, and this was a quite remarkable experience. The roasted peanut flavors blended into the sage, and the sensation was stronger than what is usually the case from previous TGRWT rounds. When tasting sage by itself it will actually remind me of peanuts and vice versa".
The third submission I received was from Daniel Campagna, from Long Island, NY with his Pliable Peanut Butter Yokan with Basmati Rice Pudding, Sage Creme and Orange. Daniel does not have a blog:
To make the yokan, Daniel combined home made peanut butter with a liquid comprised of water, sugar, and agar agar. He placed this liquid in a pan and once it was set, he cut a thin strip and rolled it onto itself. He placed the yokan on top of his basmati rice pudding which was made with basmati rice, milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon. To create his orange gel and caviar, Daniel created a mixture of orange juice, mirin, water, and agar agar. He used the cold oil spherification method for his caviar and pureed the rest for his orange gel. Lastly, for his sage creme, Daniel blanched & shocked some sage leaves, pureed them in a blender, and then combined them with heavy cream. He put this mixture into a siphon and charged it with two N2O cartridges.
Daniel said, "As I ate the whole dessert, it all seemed a little too sweet for me. For the Yokan, I wanted to keep it the shape of a cube, but it just didn't look right when it came time to plate up. Though traditional Yokan is sweet, I would cut the sugar in half and maybe dip in chocolate next time. I think the orange, and the Basmati rice went well together. The sage brought some 'airyness' to the dessert. If the peanut butter was a little more savory and some crunch was added, I think the dish would be better"
Next up is John Sconzo, at docsconz.typepad.com, with his Chicken Roulade with Asparagus, Celeriac, and Baked Chicken Skin:
John started by skinning a whole chicken, taking care to leave the skin in one piece. He then cut two boneless breasts, and two boneless thighs both with the drumstick attached. He pounded the breasts, cut a pocket in the thighs and applied salt, pepper, sage leaves, and ground peanuts. He then rolled up the breasts and legs in plastic and cooked in a CVap. To finish, he browned the meat in ghee (butter shared volatile compounds with both sage and roasted peanuts, not sure if the milk solids need to be present, but I'll include ghee) on his stove top. He paired the roulade with asparagus, celeriac puree, and baked chicken skin that he seasoned with peanut oil, soy sauce, powdered sage, salt, and pepper. John also made a satay like sauce comprised of chicken stock, peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sage. He garnished the plate with chopped peanuts and fresh pea shoots.
John said, " Overall the dish was pretty tasty and the ingredients did work well together. Both of my sons who had it enjoyed it. The sauce went very well with the asparagus as well. As might be expected, the thigh/leg preparation was moister and more satisfying than the rolled breasts, which though moist and adequately cooked out of the CVap, had dried out in the browning process. The most satisfying element of the dish was the crisp chicken skin. All the ingredients came together amongst a very pleasurable crisp bite."
The fifth submission I received was from Erik Andersen at erikmandersen.wordpress.com, with his Peanut Crusted Cod, Sage, and Israeli Couscous:
Erik started by grinding dry roasted peanuts in his food processor. He then coated his cod with the peanuts and lightly fried them with his sage infused oil. He made this by pureeing fresh sage leaves with warm canola oil. He served the fish on top of some Israeli couscous and garnished the dish with some fried sage leaves.
Erik said, "I really enjoyed the flavor of the cod and peanut together. They complimented each other nicely. The peanuts also added a nice texture to the dish. As far as the sage, I didn't end up with a whole lot of its flavor in the final dish. When I got a bite with some of the fried sage and the fish, it worked well. The sage added a bit of brightness and freshness to the overall profile."
The next submission I received was from Martin Zibauer at cottagefeast.cottagelife.com, with his Sage and Peanut Truffles:
Martin started by trying to figure out how to incorporate the sage flavor into his chocolate. He infused Limoncello with some chopped fresh sage, brewed sage tea, heated sage in cream, and pureed fresh leaves all with varying degrees of success. Ultimately he decided that the best transfer of flavor was with dried ground sage. Martin you may like to know that when making my sage buttercream, I went through the same process and wound up using dried sage as well - much more than I would have guessed to use too!
To make the truffles Martin combined cream, Limoncello, lemon zest, and sage in a bowl and brought the cream to a boil in the microwave. He then stirred in white chocolate. Once the mixture was homogeneous, he let it cool and set in the refrigerator for about an hour, at which point he shaped it into truffles. To finish the truffles, he rolled them in finely chopped peanuts.
Martin said, "Theres a distinct flavour progression here: First you get the peanut taste and texture, then the sweet lemon and white chocolate, then the sage hangs on for a while. Seating the lemon between the peanuts and sage improves their behaviour in class, and all take turns expressing themselves politely"
The following submission I received was from Claudia Riley at honeyfromrock.blogspot.com, with her Sage Infused Tofu in Roasted Peanut Sauce:
To make her dish, claudia began by marinating her tofu in warm sage water. While this was happening, she stir fried some garlic, shallots, bell peppers, and green onions in butter.
She then pulverized roasted peanuts, rice vinegar, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, pomegranate molasses, salt, and some of the sage water in a food processor. This mixture was then added to the vegetables. At this point she made a slurry with the sage water and some corn starch and added the slurry to her vegetables to thicken the sauce. She finished by adding the tofu and garnishing with fresh sage. She served everything over Basmati rice.
Claudia said, "I think the flavors combined very well. The only thing I'll do differently next time (and there will be one) is to make the sage infusion stronger. It was only mildly discernible in this and could stand being more of a presence, since tofu has the wonderful capacity to carry other flavors."
I received not ONE, not TWO, but THREE submissions from Sila Blume, from his blogs coffeedramatist.wordpress.com, blog.foodservicewarehouse.com/coffee, aristipposian.wordpress.com. I will start with his Red Beet Salad with Sage and Roasted Peanuts:
Sila stared by grinding his peanuts in a mortar and grating a medium sized red beet. Next he made a dressing by adding about 15 chopped sage leaves (about half of which were raw and the other half were roasted in a pan), a small amount of coffee, salt, and pepper to warm olive oil. This helped the ingredients release their aromas. He then combined the ground peanuts, grated beets, and dressing and garnished with the peanut coats.
Sila said, "Well, I doubt much I will be using peanuts in my kitchen more than I did before and I do believe I will stick to my peanut butter cinnamon shakes and to my toast with peanut butter and honey in the future, but I was pleased with the results of my Red Beet Salad with Sage and Roasted Peanut."
Sila's second submission was his Peanuts Coated in Sage and Coffee:
Sila started by taking raw peanuts, removing their coats, and splitting them in half. He tossed them in olive oil an roasted them for about 15 minutes. While the nuts were roasting, he chopped up some sage leaves and mixed them with some muscovado sugar, mocca coffee powder, and egg whites. As soon as the peanuts came out of the oven, he tossed them with the sage mixture and then returned them to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Sila said, "The is one snack for the so called epicurians. That means, it is not for those watching TV and eating snacks, without noticing what they are eating. The first taste in my mouth every single time was the sugar. Needless to say, peanuts develop their best taste when chewed completely and that is the taste that disperses soo with the sugar, before the sage comes into play. The best thing for me was to experience once more where different tastes take place. The tip of my tongue is not as able as I thought, while the palate - this rich roof of the mouth - got like a light shower of sage. I think, I will do this often"
Sila's final submission was his Carrot Mini Cakes with Roasted Peanuts and Sage:
Sila started by mixing grated carrots with olive oil, black-lava-salt, black pepper, sage leaves, and coffee powder. He let this mixture rest for a bit so the flavors could combine, and then strained it of all the liquid and mixed in some egg whites. He then folded in some roasted peanuts and put the mixture into small forms and baked them until they were finished. He also noted the mixture could be used for a quiche.
Sila said, "After my first couple bites I kept thinking of meat. Again and again I tried making some connection or trying to understand which was the true connection to meat, until a bit later it dawned one me: veggie burgers! I guess it is due to the roasted peanuts and the carrots, both ingredients which are sometimes used to provide the 'meat' taste some non-meat eaters wish to have" Sila went on to note that next time he would prepare the peanuts in smaller chunks, not drain all of the liquid in the beginning, and possible replace the carrots with potatoes or add some flour.
The next submission I receive was from Eran Katz, who writes his blog zetaim.com (English translation: Food Is Tasty) with his fiancee Idit Narkis. The blog is in Herbew, but for TGRWT he translated it to English. Here is Eran's Sage and Roasted Peanut Dark Chocolate Truffles:
Eran started by scalding some sage leaves in cream, and then letting them steep for about 15 minutes. He then removed the sage leaves, reheated the cream and then poured it over a bowl of chopped dark chocolate. He then added some butter, corn syrup, and some whiskey. At this point he cooled the mixture and began to shape them. He first coated the truffles in finely ground roasted peanut powder, and then in cocoa powder. All I could find about how it tasted was Eran saying 'They will go lovely with a good cup of coffee after a nice meal or just as a snack" Im guessing they taste just as wonderful as they look!
The next submission I received was from John Rosendahl at defunctlegend.comb/blog, with his Sage, Roasted Peanut, Baked Pear, and Prosciutto Pierogie:
John took some pears and halved them. He then baked them in the oven until they were cooked, but still a little firm. Once the cooled, he diced the pears. He then made a sage peanut butter to which he added diced prosciutto and creme fraiche. Next he added the pears, and after tasting he had to balance the flavors by added more prosciutto, creme fraiche, and a surprising amount of sage. Once the flavors were in balance, the pierogies were made, and served with melted butter.
John said, "The peanut hit first, followed by the sage which kind of took over, then the flavore from the prosciutto came in on top, with both the sage flavor and the prosciutto flavor being taken over by the peanut in the end....I thought they tasted great. The dough took a bit of the ege off of the sauce. I hope to make this again, but I really want to grill the pears next time."
For my own attempts at combining sage and roasted peanuts, I tried a few different approaches. I asked myself, 'What is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of sage'. The answer was brown butter. I knew I wanted to focus on desserts for this round, for a few reasons - one, I am more comfortable in the pastry side of the culinary world, and two I wanted to go the route that seemed less obvious - to me anyway. So I tried to think of desserts that use brown butter. The first thing that came to mind are financiers. For those of you who don't know, financiers are traditional French teacakes made with ground almonds and brown butter:
Sage and Roasted Peanut Financer:
I started by browning some butter with a few sage leaves. I figured this would be a subtle way to incorporate the flavor of sage into the cake. I then combined the butter with flour, salt, ground peanuts, sugar, a vanilla bean, and egg whites. Before baking the batter, I placed a sage leaf on top of each financier.
How did they taste? Okay. Maybe its because of all the financiers I have had in the past few months (a couple big events at school meant at least a few hundred financiers) and I have become used to the almond flavor. I thought the sage and peanuts went together fine, but frankly I didn't like the peanut aspect of the cake. It tasted too...muddy. Not a total loss, but next time I would probably just make the same recipe but with almonds.
Not long after the Financiers, I had to make some macarons (for Mothers Day). It made perfect sense to me to try making a Peanut and Sage Macaron:
There is endless discussion on the Internet about what kind of meringue to use for macarons - some people think a common meringue is best while others like to use an Italian meringue. I enjoy the process that goes into making an Italian Meringue and it is, without any doubt, the most stable meringue. To do it, I whipped some egg whites to soft peaks with a small amount of sugar, at which point I started to drizzle in a 230 degree sugar syrup while continuing to whip the whites to stiff peaks. At this point I folded in a mixture of equal parts ground peanuts and powdered sugar. Once this was done, I put the mixture into a piping bag with a plain tip, and piped out quarter sized discs onto a silpat lined pan. I then tapped the pan on my counter, which supposedly helps the
macarons form feet. I let the macarons rest for about 45 minutes to form skins. At this point I placed the pan in a second pan (this is called a double pan...makes sense). This helps with slow, even heat from the bottom - which I find to be key with properly baked macarons. The filling is a neoclassic buttercream flavored with dried sage. The process for a neoclassic buttercream is very similar to an Italian meringue except you use egg yolks instead of whites and then you whip butter in at the end.
So - these weren't bad. I enjoyed them more than the financiers. Texturally they were very pleasing, as macarons should be. The peanut provided a nice flavor to the shell - much more pronounced than the usual almonds. The play between the sage and peanut was very nice. It was a mellow balance, where both flavors were present but did not compete. The weirdest thing about these was that the first flavor that I noticed when I bit into them was mint. And it wasnt obvious - more like a ...hummm what is that...I know that...oh...uh...mint..?. It lasted only briefly and I had to eat a few cookies to figure out what it was. I thought maybe I was crazy so I had my father try the cookies and he had the same experience. I wonder if anyone else found this when they combined peanut and sage. I thought I picked up on it in my final dessert too - but I'm not sure.
After two trys at dessert, I wasnt totally satisfied. I threw around some ideas for a week or so before I decided on something. This time I was going to try something I had never made - or tried before. My girlfriend and her family are from Taiwan, and often make me incredible food that I would otherwise not be exposed to. One thing my girlfriend loves to talk about is the food from night markets in Taiwan. An item that has always stuck out for me is 大腸包小腸, or big intestine (sausage) wraps little intestine (sausage). Essentially what it is is a sausage casing filled with rice that is grilled and then split open like a hot dog bun. Then you put another sausage in it (again, like a hot dog) and garnish it with whatever yummy stuff you have. Heres what it is *supposed* to look like.
This turned into a bigger project than I had expected - it has been some time since I had made any sausage and frankly I had nothing to go from (recipe-wise, anyway). So here it is, 大腸包小腸, or Big Basmati Rice Sausage Wraps Little Chicken and Sage Sausage:
First I had to decide what flavors I wanted to use in this dish, as I was not going to be using a recipe. I figured it was an Asian dish, so I might as well try to stick with Asian flavors. I started by soaking my hog casings overnight. The next day I took chicken thighs, pork fatback, basmati rice, garlic, sriracha, peanuts, sage, salt, soy sauce and a few other things I'm probably forgetting. I ground all the ingredients together and then filled the casing with the mixture. So far, so good. I then took some lightly overcooked (intentionally...not sure why) basmati rice and mixed it with a small amount of soy sauce, sriracha, and chicken stock.
I started to fill the casing when it almost immediately broke. Realizing the filling was still too firm, I put it back in a bowl and loosened it up with a little more chicken stock. I repeated this 2 more times before I got a little fed up and added a bit too much stock. It was easy to fill the casing, but when I went to grill the sausage I could not get it to dry out the way I wanted it to. Oh well. Once I finished making the sausage I got together my garnishes. Once everything was ready to go, I fired up the grill.
I grilled the both sausages until they looked good, and then I went to go split the rice sausage. When it opened up, the rice looked...not too far from the consistency of a risotto. Not firm and nice like the photo of the real deal I posted above. Now this is supposed to be eaten like a hot dog, and with the soft inside, the rice sausage simply was not firm enough to support anything. So I threw it in a hot skillet with some oil and tried to sear the inside to at least prevent oozing. This worked...sort of. At this point I had accepted that a fork and knife were in my future and I put the rice sausage on a plate. I put dowe a thin line of sriracha, then some long slices of green onion. Next went the chicken sausage, which I drizzled with some Thai peanut sauce, and garnished with some crushed peanuts and bean sprouts.
So...as I am sure you are all surprised to hear, my biggest issue with the dish was a textural one. Not just with the rice sausage which was still pretty soft, but the chicken sausage too. The flavors were spot on, everything worked together - it all blended into a very enjoyable mixture of flavors - I just had too much rice in the chicken sausage. It felt sort of...starchy..sticky...not right. If I cut the rice in half, it would have been a keep the recipe (or at least my notes) kind of sausage. So overall the whole dish was OK...flavors were good, textures not so much. I really want to try some real big intestine wraps little intestine.
Last but not least, my plated dessert. After the sausage fiasco I was pretty much finished with TGRWT for the month. I had enough sage and I certainly had enough peanuts. Then I received Daniels dessert submission, which kind of inspired me to give it one more go. I thought his dish was so much in the spirit of TGRWT and a lot of Martin Lersch's work, and I wasnt totally happy with making small alterations to classic recipes. And Im glad I did it. Although I wasn't 100% satisfied with the end result, Compari Ribbon, Orange & Sage Tortoni, Sage and Peanut Financier Crumbs, Sage Ice Cream, Black Tea Pastry Cream Profiteroles:
I know, its a mouthful. I'm not one for naming things, its much easier to just list whats there. Maybe Greg's Ugly Plate of Awesome Tastings Deliciousness would work better. First things first, I hate the plating. If you couldn't tell from the low lit, weird angle, kind of ambiguous photo...I had this beautiful picture in my head - I even did a dummy plate up with empty cream puffs, an egg in place of the ice cream quenelle, and other...fake things - and thought it would work great. But I was wrong. The fact of the matter is things don't always work the way you anticipate - but thats okay, in the end I had a great dessert.
So the cream puffs are pretty standard pate a choux - water, milk, pinch-o-sugar, butter, flour, and eggs. pipe. bake. done. Theyre filled with a black tea pastry cream. Why black tea? Because it too shares volatile compounds with many of the same ingredients (just not sage). To do this I made a straight forward pastry cream and just added two packs of Tazo Awake black tea. I think I used 2 US pounds of milk, if anyone cares to figure out the ratio and wants to re-create it. Into the milk goes the tea, a bit of sugar and then its brought to a boil. I turned off the heat, covered it and let it steep while I weighed my eggs & yolks...a couple minutes. Once I was done measuring the eggs, I beat them with some corn starch and sugar, reheated the milk/tea mixture and then tempered the two. I then strained it through two fine mesh strainers, at which point I realized I would never get all the tea leaves out. Back onto the heat and a few seconds later I had some black tea pastry cream. Finished it off with a knob of butter and a dash of vanilla extract. Tastes like light and sweet black tea. Not how I drink mine, but not a bad flavor by any means. I filled the puffs with this and that was that.
I decided to use Compari for a few reasons. Long story short, a dessert I made before paired orange with Compari and it was yummy. Theres also a pretty famous cocktail that does the same. I couldn't find bitter orange, which shares volatile compounds with both sage and peanut, Compari is bitter, you see where I'm going? I took a shot of Compari while chewing a sage leaf. If you have the two on hand, give it a try. I was shocked at how well they went together. Anyway - to make the ribbon I boiled a very small amount of water with some agar agar, then added some Compari and poured it into a pan and let it set.
Financier crumbs came from the Financiers I made earlier in the month (I always save leftover cake in crumb form in my freezer - great landing pad for ice cream, coating for cakes, and lot of other uses).
The tortoni I made by zesting and juicing a navel orange into a small sauce pan with two sage leaves. I brought the juice to a boil and covered and steeped...until it was cool. I then made some whipped cream and folded the (strained) orange juice mixture in. After that I made some swiss meringue (common meringue whipped over a warm water bath - heating the whites both increases their volume when whipping and pasteurizes them) and folded it with the whipped cream. I then piped it into a piece of acetate rolled up into a tube, packed each end with some chopped peanuts and froze the whole thing.
Last piece was my sage ice cream. I made a ice cream base -- milk & cream to a boil, beat sugar and eggs, temper, cook until it naps a spoon, strain, cool, freeze. The only thing I did to make this a sage ice cream is pulse some sage leaves with the sugar in a food processor before doing anything else. This imparted the flavor really well, and most of the leaves strained out in the end.
OKAY SO HOW DID IT TASTE? Awesome. I made an attempt to try every component on its own, and with every other component, which came out to about a billion different combinations...and I actually took notes. But I blabbered enough about this plate already so Ill just give you the highlights. The Compari strip and sage blend perfectly. Sweet, mellow, bitter afterthoughts. The black tea puff with the sage...beautiful - the spicyness blends perfectly with the herbal flavors and ends nicely with the choux. Tortoni with the puff - flavors blend perfectly without fighting. Everything together - wonderful, textural, sweet, smooth, herbal, with a soft bitter finish. The complexity of the all of the flavors and textures in this dish was incredible. Everything just played together perfectly, balancing without fighting. The only complaint I have is the plating. I will revisit this dish and try to refine it even more, until I am 100% satisfied. Ill be sure to post about it whenever that happens.
So there you have it, TGRWT # 21, Sage and Roasted Peanuts. I think everyone can agree that the two ingredients do pair very well, although doing it successfully can be a little tricky. It seems that the peanuts have the magic ability to mellow out the sage, making the two flavors blend into one. This requires more layering of flavors rather than combining, if that makes any sense. It also seems that you need to use much more sage that usual for its flavor to be more than just a note. I want to thank everyone who participated, and everyone who tried to incorporate some of the extra ingredients I talked about. I am looking forward to the next round!