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."
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.
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!