Monday, April 5, 2021
Clockwise starting from the left: Broccoli Rabe with Lemon Ricotta, Romescu Sauce and Ricotta, Mozzarella di Buffalo on Sautéed Polenta, Smoked Salmon on Roasted Garlic Crème Fraiche, Duck Confit and Mascarpone Corn Puree
Broccoli Rabe with Lemon Ricotta
Broccoli rabe with a lemon ricotta mixture is a light but fulfilling example of the marvelous potential of such a simple snack. The intriguing bitterness of the broccoli rabe is instantly tamed by the cool and soothing richness and sweetness of the lemon ricotta cheese. The crunch of the toasted bread provides a pleasing and necessary textural contrast to the dish. Lemon zest serves to aromatize and brighten the seemingly rich treat. Lemon juice—also used in the production of the homemade ricotta cheese—is added to the finished cheese to create an appropriate balance with its intrinsic acidity.
Romescu Sauce and Ricotta
Romescu sauce, though Spanish in nature, utilizes a prized element in the Italian arsenal: roasted red peppers. Lightly coat the peppers in oil and char the skins over direct flame until each side is evenly blackened. Next, peel the peppers and mix with toasted almonds, roasted garlic, and extra virgin olive oil in a food processor. Blend the sauce thoroughly and season with salt, cracked black pepper and lemon juice to taste. This versatile mixture can be simply tossed with pasta or served alongside a grilled cut of meat. Mixed with ricotta cheese and topped with fresh roasted red peppers, the sauce becomes a delicious garnish for a satisfying treat.
Mozzarella di Buffalo on Sautéed Polenta
The decadent combination of silky sweet Buffalo Mozzarella with a golden-brown pillow of sautéed polenta is a perfect topping for a crunchy slice of grilled bread. The high quality of dairy from the water buffalo works beautifully with the polenta. The pair harmoniously creates a semblance of the creamed corn preparation many children were raised on. Gently simmer the polenta in chicken stock until tender and pour out onto a hotel pan or large baking sheet to cool until it solidifies. To add an interesting textural and flavor element, use a ring mold to cut rounds of the polenta and briefly sauté in extra virgin olive oil until golden brown, and heat through in the oven. Once hot, place a thin slice of the mozzarella on top of the polenta and allow the radiant heat of the polenta to melt the cheese ever so slightly. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice helps cut through the rich and decadent nature of the treat.
Smoked Salmon on Roasted Garlic Crème Fraiche
When it comes to the transformation of an ingredient in the interest of intensifying flavor and texture, smoked salmon is practically unmatchable. Cure the salmon for a 24-hour period, with a salt and sugar mixture laced with warming spices such as star anise, cloves, and cinnamon. Lemon, lime, and orange zest elevate the bright aromatic qualities of the finished product. Smoke the salmon using applewood chips and it becomes an intensely flavorful garnish for a delightful Bruschetta treat. Smoked salmon is synonymously paired with the luxurious accompaniment of crème fraiche.
Another incredible transformation occurs when garlic is roasted in olive oil along with thyme and bay leaves. Allow the unpeeled cloves to slowly roast and absorb the essence of the herbs. Once the garlic is soft and slightly darkened, the true potential of the plant is achieved. Sweet and intensely fragrant, roasted garlic is a powerful tool that adds depth and interest to any simple concoction. Puree the garlic and fold into the crème fraiche, turning the monotonous mixture into a truly dynamic duo. Adorn the newly enriched cream with delicate slices of smoked salmon, all standing atop a crisp, freshly toasted Bruschetta to create gastronomic gold.
Duck Confit and Mascarpone Corn Puree
One of the most beloved and comforting classical preparations of French cuisine is duck confit. Cure duck legs in a two-part salt and one-part sugar mixture, along with aromatic spices such as juniper, clove, and black pepper. After an overnight cure, the legs are slowly cooked in fat rendered from the duck. The result is a meltingly tender, moist, and flavorful bite of a truly remarkable bird.
Pair this treat with a sweet corn puree for a perfect balance of texture and flavor, especially when placed on top of grilled bruschetta. Simmer the corn on the cob in a minimal amount of water in order to create a flavorful broth. Once the corn is tender enough to puree, removed it from the liquid and cut the kernels from the cob. The cobs are re-submerged in the broth in order to extract every morsel of flavor. The finished broth is used as a liquid base with which to puree the corn, intensifying the corn flavor. Mix the puree with mascarpone cheese, a sweet creamy cheese that will bring an ethereal lightness to the puree.
Heat the duck confit in a strong reduction sauce, made in the classical French style, by taking the bones of the duck, browning them thoroughly and simmering in water to create a stock. The stock will be fortified with more duck bones and reduced, creating the glaze that coats the confit meat. Spread the creamy corn puree on the bruschetta and top with the succulent duck confit for an addictive and delightful experience.
Beef Tartare with Truffle Dressing
My travels in Paris lead me to develop a deep satisfaction for the simple delicacy of beef tartare. The beautiful balance of richness and acidity, and the whimsical interplay of textures create an incredibly satisfying sensual experience. The tradition of enjoying this treat with crunchy bread makes beef tartare a perfect candidate for a successful Bruschetta.
Since grinding the beef—a technique typically employed on tougher cuts of meat—bastardizes the very essence of why we crave meat in the first place, I chose a sirloin for this preparation. Dice the tender cut into a small dice by hand and season the meat with salt and black pepper. Many establishments choose reduced mushroom stock as the liquid base for this preparation. However, in keeping with the meaty nature of the dish, I reduce an intense veal stock to use as the base for the truffle dressing. Sherry vinegar is a beautiful acidic counterpart to rich meat preparations.
Emulsify the veal stock and sherry base with chopped black truffle and truffle oil to complete the incredible dressing that will lovingly coat the beef tartare. Mix the sirloin mince with the umami-laced dressing and serve a generous amount of the tartare on a grilled Bruschetta to complete this elegant version of an age-old classic.
Sautéed Foie Gras and Porcini
Chicken liver mousse is a time-tested classical preparation adored by Italians. Foie gras is the utmost representation of a liver, cherished by elite diners. The most enjoyable and respectable treatment of foie gras is achieved by simply searing the liver until dark brown and medium rare on the inside. The Porcini mushroom is an amazingly rich and fragrant ingredient in the Italian repertoire. The moment it hits a hot pan its incredible aroma fills the room and instantly creates a salivary response. The tops of the mushroom are amazingly rich in flavor and creamy in texture. The stems carry on the intoxicating aroma intrinsic within the Porcini mushroom. Sear the stems golden brown and slowly sweat them in olive oil and garlic. Puree the stems into a delightful mushroom spread. The puree serves as a base atop which the wonderfully sautéed foie gras will rest as would a king upon his throne. Roast the tops of the porcinis until golden brown and place beside the foie gras. This luxurious treat will undoubtedly satisfy even the most elite of diners.