That's my one-word review of this cheese course. It was, um... meh.
Don't get me wrong -- they were good; they just weren't great. I don't think I'd make them again.
The Parmigiano-Reggiano Custards with Romaine Lettuce, Anchovy Dressing, and Parmesan Crisps is the cheese course the French Laundry serves as its "Caesar Salad." I get where Keller was going with this dish. All the traditional caesar salad elements are there; all the flavors are there; I think I actually just prefer a regular ole caesar salad to this.
Let's dig in.
The first thing I did was make the anchovy dressing. Here's the mise en place:
I pureed the shallots, garlic, vinegar,mustard, lemon juice and anchovies in the blender. Then, I transfered this mixture to my mixer and with the paddle attachment mixed in the egg yolk. Next, I slowly drizzled in the two oils:
When it was finished, it was a lighter color and smelled heavenly:
I don't always put anchovies in my caesar dressing because sometimes I just want to make it spur of the moment and not have to debone the filets or soak them in milk for a half-hour. But after tasting this dressing, I'll take the time and make the effort. It really is worth it. And, this recipe makes way more than needed for this particular dish, so I'm quite pleased that I'll be able to eat caesar salads all weekend to use up some more of the dressing.
Next up were the parm-reg custards. These were the weakest part of the dish. Granted, some of the flaws in the final product may be attributed to user error, but I also will confess that I had a slight texture issue with these. I love puddings and custards and these were the right texture for a custard, but it was an odd texture along with everything it was served with. It was the kind of texture that would make my friend Marisa's shoulder blades twitch. Know what I mean? Anyway, here's the mise en place:
I put the milk, cream and cheese chunks into a saucepan and brought them up to a simmer. I then turned off the heat, covered the pan and let it sit for 45 minutes to let the flavors infuse.
I'm a BIG FAN of parmigiano-reggiano, so it was all I could do to stay out of the kitchen and not stick my face in the pan and smell it every twenty seconds.
At the end of the 45-minute infusing period, I whisked the eggs and the egg yolk in a bowl, and reheated the parm-reg cream mixture for a minute or two. I slowly poured the cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the eggs, whisking the whole time. I needed a third arm for this step, but I made it work without any spillage. Bravo, me. I seasoned this new mixture with a little bit of salt and white pepper. Next, I ladled about two tablespoons into each of the mini baking molds:
Note how they're fluted and scallopy. Don't use these if you're going to try this recipe at home. The custards are a pain in the ass to get out of the molds once they've hardened. I wish I had gone out and gotten different molds, but I already had these, so I used them. The custards weren't pretty since I had to dig them out and try and reform them for the plating of this dish. Stupid fluted baking molds.
I put the finished custards in a water bath in that roasting pan and put them in a 250 oven for 45 minutes. The book said to bake them for 30 minutes, but they were still really runny, so I ended up leaving them in there (checking on them every few minutes) for 45 minutes. Once they were done, I removed them from the water bath and put them in the fridge to cool.
Next up -- Parmesan crisps. I love these things. I should've made extras just to much on the rest of the weekend. That was dumb; oh well, next time. Here's how you make them: fresh-grated parmesan cheese in small circles on the Silpat on a baking sheet, then placed in a 325 oven for 6-8 minutes:
The last thing I did right before assembling the dish was to do a chiffonade of romaine hearts, toss them with a tiny bit of the caesar dressing, some white pepper, and some fresh-grated parmesan cheese.
Time for assembly:
1) spoonful of caesar dressing
2) baguette crouton
3) parm-reg custard
4) parmesan crisp
6) two large dots of balsamic glaze on the side
In closing, they didn't suck. They just weren't something that makes you say "wow" or "oh my god" or close your eyes and close out all other senses so that you can just focus on the smell and the taste. Like I said in the beginning of this post: Meh.
Up Next: Shrimp with Avocado Salsa.
Antica Italia olive oil
All produce, bread and dairy products from Whole Foods
Music to Cook By: Scissor Sisters, Scissor Sisters (because I am seeing them in concert on Sunday night!).
Saturday, March 3, 2007