I contemplated writing a post about the Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Beluga Caviar that went a little something like this:
It more than sucked.
I hated it.
Everyone who tried it hated it.
I would not even wish this dish upon my worst enemy OR Celine Dion.
I am ripping Page 22 out of The French Laundry Cookbook because this tasted like ass. Or what I can imagine ass must taste like because let's face it, many of us say that something tastes like ass, yet, that's not really an honest comparison, because ew.
But as you can see, I'm going to write through the dry heaves that have begun yet again as I sit down to write this entry. I'm doing this for you, America. You can thank me later by never speaking of this dish again. It's gagging me almost as much as those softshell crabs.
You know what, it's a good thing I'm not posting this entry until today because... funny coincidence! I was in New York on business Sunday and Monday and got on the waiting list for Per Se, Thomas Keller's NY outpost. Unfortunately, I didn't get in, but I did chuckle (or rather choke back vomit) when I saw the first item on his Sunday night Chef's Tasting Menu was this very dish. On one hand, I thought it might be nice to taste the restaurant's version of it to see if it really is a masterpiece and I am a moron who couldn't make it properly... but on the other hand, I can imagine no greater embarrassment than puking on the fine patrons of Per Se.
With that appetizing thought, let's get cookin' -- WOO HOOO!!!!!!!
I picked up the oysters at BlackSalt and had the guys there shuck them for me so I didn't shuck my torso in an attempt to open an oyster. Believe me, I learned my lesson the hard way. Shucking oysters is not my strong suit. I have the emergency room bill to show for it. Here they are in their liquid:
Bleeeaaarrrrggghhh. I get the heebie-jeebies just looking at those things. I've tried them so many times in so many different iterations. My Uncle Don used to eat them raw out of the shell, and he gave me one when I was a kid. I almost puked it back up, but didn't want to be embarassed at our family picnic, so I choked it down and saved the crying for later. My grandmother used to make oyster pie, and I could only stomach the potatoes and pie crust because the oysters never seemed to break down when you chewed them and it made me ill. I tried them at a friend's restaurant at the beach, served in many gorgeous preparations. Gag. I even tried them in a Po' Boy at Uglesich's a few years ago and it was bad news. So, you won't be singing "Carol and oysters... sittin' in a tree" EVER.
So. Oysters. Yeah. I didn't need to use these guys until after I made the cauliflower panna cotta, so let's talk about that, even though the topic of cauliflower isn't my favorite, either. Am I the only one repulsed by the smell of this horrid, horrid vegetable? Man, I'm Nelly Negative today. Are you even still reading this? You can skip it if you want to. I won't be offended.
The first thing I did was cut the cauliflower florets (from a fresh head of cauliflower) into half-inch slices. I put them into a medium saucepan, added some butter and enough water to just barely cover them:
I brought the cauliflower/butter/water combo up to a simmer and let it cook for about a half hour, until most of the water was gone. I added the cream and simmered for another ten minutes:
When it was cooked and the liquid reduced, I put the saucepan's contents into the food processor and blended the cauliflower/cream mixture until it was completely smooth:
At this point, I had to open the kitchen windows because it was starting to smell like a bad Southwest Airlines flight I was on a few summers ago with a bunch of tourists who'd just eaten at Burger King before boarding the plane. I strained the cauliflower purée through a chinois and added a wee bit of salt for taste. Then, I soaked a sheet of gelatin in cold water for a few minutes to soften it. I squeezed out the excess water and stirred the gelatin into the warm cauliflower mixture. I then spooned the cauliflower mixture into individual serving glasses:
I put the glasses of gelatinous cauliflower into the refrigerator to chill for a few hours. I also contemplated stripping the walls and repainting them to get the cauliflower stink out of my house. Instead, I just burned the whole place down. Kidding.
Once the cauliflower was set, I made the oyster jelly. Mmmmmmmmm.... doesn't that sound delicious? Oyster jelly. Just what I'd always dreamed of making. Oyster jelly. The one goal in life I hoped to accomplish before I died. Making oyster jelly. The very words I want printed on my tombstone when I die: "She made a kickass oyster jelly."
You've already seen the photo of the oysters lounging around in their own juices, and I'm not going to post it again because I like you and do not want to torture you any more than you are being tortured by having to read this.
I removed the oysters from the liquid and gave them to a neighbor to eat. I strained the oyster liquid twice and put it into a small bowl. In a separate bowl, I put one third of a gelatin sheet into two teaspoons of water. I put the bowl over a small saucepan of hot water and stirred it to dissolve the gelatin. I removed the bowl from the heat and added the oyster liquid. I stirred some more to incorporate everything, then added some pepper:
I put this concoction into the refrigerator and stirred it every now and then until it was the consistency of salad oil. I put a spoonful of the jelly into each glass atop the cauliflower panna cotta:
I put the glasses back into the fridge until they were set and ready to serve. When it was go time, I added a small spoonful of caviar before serving my guests:
How'd it go over with the tasting crew? Let me break it down for you with my mad math skillz. This recipe made six servings. I had four friends over to taste. Four plus me equals five, which means we had an extra serving. When that has happened in the past, we fight over the extra plate, or try to split it diplomatically. That was not the case with this dish. No one finished their own serving, and we couldn't think of anyone in the neighborhood we hated enough to invite to try the 6th one to see if maybe our palates were off. I was happy to throw the extra one down the garbage disposal. It was bad. Really bad. I know the ingredients were good because none of us got sick or anything... we all agreed that this just tasted bad and we didn't like the flavor combinations or textures of any of it. I will confess that I didn't use beluga caviar and used sturgeon instead. But even sans caviar, this sucked... so I know it's not the poor caviar's fault.
I have to stop writing about this now because it's grossing me out to think about it any further. If you're still reading at this point, wow. You should get a medal or something.
Up Next: Fish & Chips -- Red Mullet with a Palette d'Ail Doux and garlic chips
Oysters and caviar from BlackSalt
Cauliflower from Whole Foods
Organic Valley cream
365 organic butter
Music to Cook By: I made a playlist of all the artists I'm seeing at VirginFest this weekend -- The Police, Beastie Boys, Amy Winehouse, Cheap Trick, The Fratellis, Peter Bjorn & John, Paolo Nutini... the list goes on and on. Just need to keep Winehouse out of rehab until Saturday night!