Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Caviar Wishes

Nope, not contraband gained through mysterious means. Instead, a very kind, incredibly thoughtful, and exceedingly generous gift from a visiting friend - not one, but several jars of the glistening black pearls. I won't go on too much about how much I love the stuff lest one incurs the wrath of caviar emptor vigilantes; suffice to say I will go on eating it even if it means camping out in a closet.

Beluga, osciotr and sevruga distinguish between the three species of sturgeon harvested for caviar. Malossol, on the other hand, is a Russian term referring not to species but to the preservation technique for packing and shipping caviar. Malossol - "little salt" - typically indicates caviar of particular distinction from sturgeon caught at the beginning of the season. Malossol caviar tastes of natural piscine saltiness, of the sea, but does not suffer from the surfeit of salt (added to preserve the delicate eggs in transit) all too often associated with lesser caviar.

Ever had to endure one of those precious, stiff-backed, starched-linen affairs where an entire table of hungry diners is supposed to share one tin or jar of caviar, and everyone self-consciously helps themselves to only a tiny teaspoon or two so as not to appear avaricious? Painful just about sums it up, not to mention pointless. To say the obvious, the only way to eat caviar is to eat plenty of it, preferably with a pearl spoon.

Some ways we enjoyed our windfall:

Scrambled Scallops

Super but also super easy, a puree of scallops and cream gently coddled in a bain marie until it acquires the appearance and texture of scrambled eggs. This egg-free scramble is then served in an emptied eggshell. Michel Richard's Happy in the Kitchen is bursting with such brilliant, mischievous and inventive recipes - food as trompe l'oeil, if you will. Many of the ingenious techniques and ideas in the book had me slapping my forehead and going, as Thomas Keller puts it in his foreword to the book, "Why didn't I think of that?". An awesome book, definitely one of my favourite releases from 2006.

Sweet Corn Madeleines with Caviar & Crème Fraîche

I'm a fan of François Payard's Simply Sensational Desserts, and I do think that small is beautiful, so I didn't hesitate springing for Bite Size, a slender volume on chic canapés for the cocktail hour. If you enjoy the labour-intensiveness of fiddling with and fussing over morsels not much wider than a thumb, it will probably prove a real page-turner. The recipe for these savoury mini madeleines made with fresh corn comes from the book, served warm from the oven with dollops of crème fraîche and caviar.

Prawn Custard with Cauliflower Puree & Caviar

The earthy flavour of cauliflower has a great affinity with fish roe, a signature Joël Robuchon pairing that has inspired many others. This particular number hails from Neil Perry's Rockpool. The quivering custards are made with an intensely flavourful prawn stock and eggs much in the fashion of Japanese chawan-mushi, served chilled in a puddle of cauliflower cream and accompanied by a drizzle of spinach oil and a healthy helping of caviar.

Yukon Gold Potato Blini

My palate hasn't quite acquired the taste for the pukka and authentic article, made solely with buckwheat flour. I much prefer the French-influenced lighter version, still yeast-leavened but using a mixture of buckwheat and wheat flours - in my mind, the definitive recipe is the Taillevent one, which can be found in Lydie Marshall's A Passion for Potatoes.

Then there's Thomas Keller's potato blini (from The French Laundry Cookbook). It does away with the buckwheat flour and yeast entirely, and the result is an incredibly refined pancake, a creamy and ethereal wonder that virtually melts in the mouth, the ultimate showcase for whatever luxurious garnishes you've chosen to use them as rafts for - here, crème fraîche, caviar and chopped hard-cooked eggs. The recipe calls for Yukon Gold potatoes - as the batter is itself enriched with crème fraîche, their greedily absorbent nature allows them to imbibe more cream than other potatoes thus resulting in the loveliest possible texture. Pressing the warm potatoes through a tamis rather than merely mashing them is another refinement to the trad that ensures blini quite in a league of their own.

Sorry, no El Bulli-esque dessert mimicking the look of caviar. But receiving the caviar did remind me that I had yet to open the tins of Kusmi Tea we had picked up from our recent visit to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo - I was simply too taken with the divine goûts russes packaging, which at the time, funnily enough, reminded me of caviar tins!

21 Comments:

Blogger Pille said...

During the Soviet era, my grandmother worked as a bookkeeper for a large culinary firm, and would bring us good Russian caviar pretty regularly. My parents loved it, whereas I was disgusted by the salty black pearls:) Silly me.
I've now tentatively started to eat caviar again (Coregonus albula roe is my current favourite). You've certainly created some elegant dishes here - I love the plating of the potato blini!
And I've been lusting after some Kusmi tea recently, too - mainly because of those lovely tins:)

4:50 pm, March 07, 2007  
Blogger Fanny said...

Hi Joycelyn,
what a beautiful post.
The pictures and dishes are a real inspiration.

Love
- fanny

5:29 pm, March 07, 2007  
Blogger Kate said...

OMG Joycelyn,
That is so beautiful,Love the scallops, love the prawn custard,the blinis...oooohh...where's the champagne ???
That is a very beautiful post and looks like u have really taken a lot of touble to prepare this and share it with us.Thank you.

8:28 pm, March 07, 2007  
Anonymous veron said...

Wow Joycelyn! This is indeed a treat. Thanks for the tips on serving caviar. I do have "Happy in the Kitchen". I have also been wanting to try them on blinis. Here's how I served mine, my pictures are not as lovely as yours though. The caviar with sorrel jelly is at the middle of the post.
Caviar and Sorrel Jelly

12:09 am, March 08, 2007  
Blogger L Vanel said...

I loved the idea of the corn madelines. Thank you! The photos are lovely.

1:56 am, March 08, 2007  
Blogger Ales said...

quite impressive, as always! Now you've gotta tell us what you eat for a normal Monday night! ; )

2:12 pm, March 08, 2007  
Anonymous Melissa said...

I want friends like yours! What a generous gift, and what a gorgeous, elegant spread you made. I can only look and dream... and drool!

11:45 pm, March 08, 2007  
Anonymous rob said...

Wow, you've got some great friends. I've been unable to find anything but Canadian caviar for over a year now. Rachel and I used to spend the occasional night with some buckwheat blini, a tin of caviar, and a good movie. If I had to choose one of these dishes to try, I think I'd go with the scrambled scallops. The flavour combination looks wonderful and I've heard such great things about Happy in the Kitchen. Stunning as always.

9:47 am, March 09, 2007  
Blogger Linda said...

you are such a talented photographer and i'm thrilled to have found your blog! i never realized all the possible food settings caviar had to offer. thanks for sharing!

12:30 am, March 10, 2007  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

And to think that I can count the number of caviar beads/pearls (?) I've eaten on the fingers of two hands... NOT FAIR! But your results are gorgeous, as ever.

6:30 pm, March 10, 2007  
Blogger ParisBreakfasts said...

What a splashy comeback!
We've missed you
You're setups are so original, not to mention delicious!
Will you come with me to Paris as my still life setter-upper?
I'll paint while, you shoot and eat.

10:56 pm, March 11, 2007  
Anonymous Jean said...

The madelines look the most tempting :)

8:06 pm, March 12, 2007  
Anonymous mae said...

Hi J, another stunning collection.

I love all the presentations especially the tiny drizzle of spinach oil around the cauliflower cream.

Very nice friends you have.

Mae

12:51 am, March 13, 2007  
Blogger Anita said...

Hi J,
Truffles and now caviar? You certainly have the most enviable of meals:) Plating is exquisite as always - I do covet those madeleines!

11:29 pm, March 13, 2007  
Blogger Chubbypanda said...

I normally just enjoy the articles and pictures, but I felt the need to comment on this one. I really enjoyed reading about the various ways you decided to consume your caviar. Thanks for sharing.

5:57 am, March 14, 2007  
Blogger thepassionatecook said...

being austrian, no meal is complete without a riedel glass. that it also complements caviar so well i didn't know... if only i could get my hands on something other than lumpfish roe - but i'll probably have to wait another few months before baby will be happy to venture further than my local supermarket!

8:33 pm, March 14, 2007  
Blogger mingoumango said...

Your pictures are really gorgeous ! I'm stuck !!!

7:34 am, March 16, 2007  
Anonymous keiko said...

Dear Joycelyn - I just love the luxurious feel that you give every time I visit here. Everything looks/sounds indulging but I'm especially intrigued by the scrambled scallops (drooling)... Happy in the Kitchen is in my wish list now, thank you for being such an inspiration, as always.

1:03 am, March 19, 2007  
Blogger jeena said...

Mmmm your recipes look delicous!
you have Great blog from Jeena :)


visit jeena's kitchen healthy recipe blog

5:14 am, March 24, 2007  
Blogger Alan said...

hi hi...

can you please let me know where i can get yukon gold potatoes in singapore?

i'd like to try the blini recipe...

:) thanks

11:11 pm, April 04, 2007  
Blogger JacquelineC said...

We just used the word Kuidore tonight at dinner of o-makase sushi. So fab. I remembered having run across this gorgeous blog long ago. Glad to find you again. You seem to be a kindred spirit. I hope you will enjoy this O-makase omakase post..
-Jacqueline

8:00 pm, December 14, 2007  

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