Free Form Crème Brulée
Aug 18th, 2010 by

Fresh Corn and Blueberry Cake with Lemon Crème Brulée, Candied Corn, and Blueberry Basil Sorbet

This weekend my sister came to dinner! She gave me two weeks notice and very specific instructions. 1. my dessert had to be delicious. 2. It had to involve caramel. 3. If I could avoid chocolate that would be great because the friend that she would be dining with dislikes it. Actually on second thought those aren’t very specific directions, but I knew that one of her favorite desserts is crème brulée. When she was younger she used to drive my family mad by eating it in microscopic bites but since I wouldn’t be there to watch her eat it, I figured I would give her something I knew she would love.

The rest of the dessert was really quite simple. Blueberries and corn are both in season right now, and not only do I love them both, but they go well together. Corn may seem like a savory-only ingredient to some people, in which case I urge you consider the innate sweetness of fresh corn. Plus corn is a little earthy and pops juice in your mouth when cooked properly. Therefore, I wanted to play up the perfectness of the corn with blueberries by keeping it simple and clean but accented by the luxuriousness of a slightly acidic crème brulée.

This dish is a vanilla cake filled with blueberries and fresh corn that sits on top of a lemon custard that has been topped with sugar and burned. It is accented by a blueberry basil sorbet that rests upon “candied corn.” I wanted to continue with the fresh corn theme so I caramelized sugar and tossed in the roasted corn kernels. I will admit that I expected to end up with fresh corn coated with caramel but since the corn was cooler and wetter than the caramel it forced the caramel to seize. So while some of the corn was nicely coated, some of the caramel   crystallized forming little nuggets of sugar. This turned out to be exactly the contrast in textures that I wanted. This dish is the simplest dish I have made yet, but I also think it may be one of my best. The textures and flavors contrasted nicely: it wasn’t too sweet, but it was sweet enough to be identified as dessert, and utilized a technique (the free form crème brulée) that was slightly unusual and interesting.

Psychodelic Fruit Soup
Aug 5th, 2010 by

Apricot Soup with Watermelon Gelee, Strawberry and Apricot Sauces, and Mixed Berry Swirl Sorbet

My mother has frequently complained about what a pack rat I am and I suppose the fact that I still have practically every paper that I have ever touched and every art project I made in elementary school stored in her house justifies this statement. However, on occasion this can be an excellent trait. For instance, the assembly for this week’s Sunday supper was the easiest yet because all I did was pull out all the little scraps that I had squirreled away in the last few weeks.

The  apricot juice that was the base for this soup is a by-product of the apricot compote that we are serving on one of the regular plates. I have been freezing off the juice every time I make the compote with the thought of making a light, cold, summery fruit soup. This week I had finally accumulated two quarts of juice, which was enough for 24 portions since I planned on adding some heavy cream and sugar to make it richer and sweeter. Instead I added ricotta that was pureed, strained, and thus silky smooth, because we had accidentally ordered too much. This was a case of necessity providing inspiration; without its nudge I might never have thought of using the ricotta, but it added both some body and tanginess and saved the soup from the possible cloyingness of cream. With the ricotta, I also didn’t need to add any more sugar: the apricots have been delicious this year, sweet and super fruity, so just a little lemon juice was all they needed to enhance them.

The watermelon gelee was left over from an experiment I did last week. I was trying to make watermelon jelly, and, because I didn’t want to cook the watermelon juice, I tried to do a cold set with pectin. I had never done a cold set before — generally, when making jelly, the fruit and pectin are boiled to activate the pectin — and while I understand that it is possible, the texture that resulted in my experiment just wasn’t jelly like: instead of spreading smoothly like a jelly, it broke apart like jello. However, it was a fun experiment, and what was leftover was perfect for this soup.

There are two sorbets in the sorbet swirl. The first one I made from the leftover berries that we serve for brunch and includes strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. I also added a little bit of yuzu, a citrus that kind of looks like a wrinkly, ruby-red grapefruit, but tastes like a complex tangerine. The other sorbet was a lovely strawberry and black pepper sorbet that my boss had made for a special strawberry dessert. I didn’t have enough of either for all the plates and since they were complimentary colors and flavors I decided to swirl them together. It may have appeared a little like rainbow sherbet once it was mixed, but it tasted delicious.

The soup was decorated with two sauces. The pink dots are made with the strawberry basil sauce from last week and the orange ones are  apricot puree, which added a zing of apricot and some extra tartness. I also added some micro cilantro mostly because I needed some green.

Not until plating this dish for the line up that we do for the servers, did I realize just how bright and tropical this dessert looked. I think its pretty even if not particularly refined and possibly a little bit retro; however, I do have it on good authority that the result was in fact as summery and refreshing as I intended.

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