Sunday, January 21, 2007

Parmagiano-Reggiano Crisps with Goat Cheese Mousse

Every Friday, my two neighbor friends and I (Hi, Linda and Holly!) and I get together for a glass of wine (or three) and snacks when their kids get home from school. It's become a tradition that we love, and that every now and then we open up to other friends. This week, it was Linda's 27th birthday (not really her 27th, but maybe she'll shovel the snow from my sidewalk if she sees that I wrote she turned 27 instead of her real age), so we invited some other girls from the neighborhood, as well as some of her friends, so that we could have a nice afternoon of beverage-induced celebration. I decided that instead of a bag of Turtle Chex Mix (which is what I usually bring; and if you're like my girlfriends from the beach with whom I ate this lovely delicacy all summer, you will also call it "Food of Satan" once you've had it -- it's that good), I would have my second installment of French Laundry at Home be Thomas Keller's Parmagiano-Reggiano Crisps with Goat Cheese Mousse (pg. 49).

On Friday afternoon, I knocked off work early and spent about an hour working on this dish. The prep is easy and the execution is not too bad, as long as you're quick on the timing of the crisps and don't mind fondling HOT, BUBBLING CHEESE repeatedly to make the crisps into something presentable. I followed Keller's instructions verbatim and had a few mishaps, which kind of sucked on something this easy. I figured my own screw-ups wouldn't happen until much further into this project, but alas I was wrong.

The first thing I did was prepare the goat cheese mousse, which involved, um, goat cheese (duh), a little bit of whipping cream, some parsley, salt and pepper, and my trusty food processor. Here are the ingredients:

By the way, aren't those salt and pepper grinders cool as shit? I love them -- best find this summer at the TJ Maxx in Stone Harbor (thanks, Marty, for the tip; and see below for where to buy them). But I digress... so you combine the goat cheese, salt, pepper and parsley in the food processor and slowly add the whipping cream through the feed tube (no, not THAT feeding tube, Terri Schiavo) and it's supposed to whip up into a mousse. Which it did for about 3 minutes, and then it turned itself into more of a thick cream. See? Here's what it ended up looking like:

Not very mousse-ish. I'm not sure why that happened, but I plan to ask a friend of mine who is a chef. I'm sure he'll be able to tell me what I did wrong. It didn't affect the taste, but I think it would have looked better had it held the mousse-like texture.

After the mousse/cream was done, I started on the parmagiano-reggiano crisps, which involved hand-grating a brick of parm-reg cheese...

... and then creating 2.5" disk-like piles of it on the Silpat on a baking sheet. I didn't have a 2.5" ring mold, so I skipped out to Strosniders Hardware Store (if you're in the DC area and live near one of their stores, you should know they have an AMAZING kitchen supply section), where a most kind manager helped me find an alternative (since Sur La Table was closed when I went there the night before). He said that Michel Richard from Citronelle came in a few months ago and bought pre-cut pieces of PVC to use as ring molds at home. My first thought was, "holy crap, not only is this store manager totally cute but he also knows Michel Richard" and my second thought (which I actually articulated) was "show me to the PVC, mi amigo" which he did. They didn't have 2.5" and only had 2", so I gave it a shot. Next time, I'll use 2.5" because it will make a difference in the shape of the crisps, but this time the 2" worked just fine. Here's what they looked like as I was prepping them for baking:

Then, you put the cheese into the oven and bake them for 8-10 minutes. I wish the Internetwebthingy had smell-o-vision because these were a freakin' slice of olfactory heaven:

After you take them out of the oven, you're supposed to let them sit on the Silpat for 30 seconds before you start spatula-ing them off the mat and into an egg carton to form a tulip-shaped cup. Let me just say that the egg carton idea did not work for me. At all. Not even close. Thomas Keller must have super-groovy Andy Gibb magical supernova fantabulous egg cartons or something because all my parm-reg discs failed this part of the process. Only two of the first eight survived:

Of course, that wasn't all bad, because it meant I could EAT ALL BY MYSELF the crispy baked-cheese goodness of the broken, mangled failed crisps. Yeah, that sucked. I should've screwed up all 16 of them and showed up at my neighbor's cocktail gathering with cheese and the oil from it dripping down my chin. That would have been so attractive. But, it was her birthday and I had to make it not about me, and all about her. I know... life sucks sometimes.

Soooooo, I had to come up with another way to make these... and I ONLY HAD EIGHT MINTUES TO FIGURE IT OUT, because the next batch was already baking in the oven. I felt the presence of MacGyver enter my soul, and I flung (flang? flinged?) open the door of the corner cabinet in my dining room to see what I might be able to use. God bless my now-departed Grandma B, for she once owned these really odd-looking green shot glasses that I "inherited":

... and instantly I realized that if you turned them upside down and molded the cheese discs over them right after they came out of the oven, they'd form the tulip-like cups I needed:

This plan worked great, and I found I also needed to channel my mother during this process (even though she's alive... I still had to channel her somehow), because she has these krypton hands that can touch freakin' molten lava and not get burned, and let me tell you that holding this cheese onto the shot glasses two-at-a-time for 30 seconds each until they started to harden kind of felt like I was hand-molding a blown glass art piece with MY BARE HANDS (I know, I'm a wuss; shut UP). Anyway... I just kept telling myself that my mom seems to be able to do this kind of 9,000-degree-heat-touching thing completely effortlessly and I needed to quit my bitching, so I got it done.

Here's what they looked like when they were hardened (this is six of sixteen):

I then piped the goat cheese mousse, which was now cream, into them and here's a shot of the final product:

Not too bad, huh? The real test was in the tasting of them. A bunch of the neighborhood kids came in while I was piping in the cream. Half of them thought it smelled great and looked awesome, while the other half made gagging noises and said that something smelled like a dog vomitted into a puddle of pee. No, kids... that's what Sandra Lee's concoctions smell (and probably taste) like. Not mine. Go away...

I took the crisps over to my neighbor's house for her birthday cocktail hour and the adults LOVED them. I will give some of the kids credit because they tried them and didn't gag... but I have to admit that even though I think they were good, they would have tipped the scale from good to FREAKIN' AWESOME if the filling had retained the mousse-like quality they started out with. The parsley and goat cheese worked really well together, and they were a nice complement to the sharpness of the parm-reg crisps. The two textures worked really well together, and I thought held up nicely with the wine I brought (see below).

Overall, these were easy to make, and I'd recommend doing them for a cocktail party or a potluck at a friend's house. If any of you have ever made these and the mousse stayed mousse-tastic and didn't get creamy, please let me know what you did differently, because I will make these again and I want to try and get it right.

Let me take a moment to say "Thank you" to everyone who commented or sent an email after my first post. I am so psyched that y'all are excited about this, and for all my local DC-area peeps, I can't wait to have you over so that you can try some of this great food.

Up next: Warm Fruitwood-Smoked Salmon with Potato Gnocchi and Balsamic Glaze

Wine Pairing:
Mer Soleil, 2004 Chardonnay (buttery and rich; it's my favorite)

Brands Used:
Cheeses and produce from Whole Foods
PVC from Strosniders
Silpat from Strosniders
Calphalon baking sheet
Kuhn Rikon S&P grinders
Cuisinart food processor

Music to Cook By: Cirque du Soleil "Alegria;" it's a mathematical-sounding album, and I needed something precise to get me through all these steps. Not necessarily anything I could sing along with, but it was really fun to listen to. I haven't listened to that CD (even though it's now on my iPod) since I saw the show back in 1996 with my friend, Chris. Oh, hi Chris!


Anonymous said...

Wow -- those look amazing. You're right... smell-o-vision would be a great thing.

Anonymous said...

You might have needed to use light whipping cream instead of heavy whipping cream. And, maybe re-whipping it right before piping it could've helped... but sometimes doing mousse just doesn't work all the time. Try it again... and do less of the heavy cream, or use light cream instead.

I love this thing you're doing. Don't you love having your kitchen back since the dickweed moved out? I like you having your kitchen back. Cooking makes you happy... and that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Great idea to use those shot glasses -- they're really pretty.

Anonymous said...

I'm a parm freak, and those looked SO good! I wonder if I could do that without that Silpat thingawhatsit. I want to be your neighbor...

By the way--I have to ask...did you lose the lid to the food processor? Kidding....only kidding!

Anonymous said...

I'm a parm freak, and those looked SO good! I wonder if I could do that without that Silpat thingawhatsit. I want to be your neighbor...

By the way--I have to ask...did you lose the lid to the food processor? Kidding....only kidding!

Carol Blymire said...

Spoonie -- yes, you can work without Silpat, as long as the pan is non-stick. My pan was non-stick, but for me, Silpat provides a safety net because of the way it distributes the heat. My oven can be fickle with heat distribution sometimes, so when I can, I use a Silpat for things like this. And, no, I didn't lose the lid to my food processor... Santos took it. ;)

Anonymous said...

I wish, oh wish, I could taste these. I want to be your neighbor, too.

I love the idea of this blog and look forward to checking back to see what's cookin' (literally).

Rebecca said...

Hilarious post, and the parmesan crisps sound delicious. I wonder if you could make the mousse with a different kind of cheese; we hate goat cheese in my house. I think you will find that the more you cook the more impervious your hands will become to heat, which sucks for enjoying hand-holding or stroking a baby's soft skin since your hands have turned into asbestos, but is handy for touching stuff hot out of the stove!

Anonymous said...

As one of the lucky neighbors, and the even luckier birthday girl, let me say this food tastes even better than she admits. My favorite is still the gazpacho.

When do your friends and neighbors get to help with a dish?

I'll shovel your walk even when they find out I'm officially past 40.

Now get back in that kitchen and stop procrastinating on the gnocchi! :)

Anonymous said...

Maybe you were supposed to turn the egg carton over and mold the shells around the bottom like you did with the glasses?


Katy Kenedy said...

I'm loving living vicariously through you! I can't wait to hear your reaction to making the cornets - I worked at a catering company years ago and still have burns from reaching INTO the oven to turn the boiling butter/flour onto metal forms. Good luck and keep up the good work!

RachelleOD said...

I love making parm "tulips" (and I thought I was the only one using shot glasses! lol)!
I use parchment paper if I can't find or don't have access to silpat.
I recently made these for a party of 50 (whew). Burnt fingertips! I found myself using the tops of wine bottles (covered with plastic wrap) to get it done faster.
And - of course - I just had to open one of those bottles to get the job done!

Anonymous said...

These sound really good. I'm wondering if the issue with the cream was that it was in the processor too long. The longer you whip the cream the firmer it gets.

And I used to live near Strosniders. We loved that place!

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog and I think it's wonderful. You have a great style of writing - very enjoyable!

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and I'm starting way back at the beginning, even if no one ever sees my comments!

I don't see how, based on your description, that goat cheese concoction would ever be/remain mousse-like. It has no egg whites, and the cream is added INTO the cheese and blended, rather than whipped first and then folded. I don't think you did anything wrong - I think the recipe is faulty. *gasp!*

I'll bet if you whipped the cream first in your KA and folded it into the blended cheese, parsley (yuck), and S&P it would have worked better.

But since I'm 7 months behind, it's possible I'll discover you've since made this again with the desired results.

Jakenderek said...

I've also just discovered your site (through Ruhlman's comments - LOVE Ruhlman!) and I'm officially stalking you.

Just thought you might wanna know :)

(This project rocks!)

marah said... several other commentators i also want to be your neighbor and i've also just discovered your blog and think you're writing is hilarious! yay!

BuBbLeS said...

Hi! I just discovered your blog and I love it! Bravo on your project!!

Just a quick note on the parmesan crisps with goats cheese mousse. I tried to make the same yesterday, and mine held did hold its shape throughout the evening. What I did was to whip the cream first in another boat, cream the goats cheese by hand, and then fold in the cream.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Julie of Kitchenography pointed this post out to me as I've just written one on the same recipe! I had the same issues with the crisps, too! It took me three tries, but I did finally make it work. Yours look wonderful! The question is, will you make them again? :-)

Carol Blymire said...

I have made them again since the first time, and they work best when folded over something -- a shot glass, the egg carton upside-down. They're delicious and I'm glad you tried them!

John Jezl said...

I've done these a few times for parties. They're great. I've found that I prefer them with chives rather than parsley. I haven't had much trouble with the egg-carton, but I might give your way a shot. I can't keep extra egg cartons around just for this. :-)

BTW, just found this blog and just want to say... YAY! My daughter and I /love/ the FL cookbook!

Anonymous said...

Another "late to the party" commentator - starting from the beginning and working my way through. Awesome blog!

Arundathi said...

i'm also starting at the beginning and working my way down. love your writing.

Sioux said...

A new latecomer-I found you today and immediately went back to day one.

I wish I had paid attention to how I found you because the link provider deserves major props. I'm on recipe 2 and really looking forward to catching up

Claire said...

Regarding the 'mousse-tastic' texture: Even if Keller wrote to use a food processor, I would try a mixer. The mousse texture comes from the cream being whipped up and I don't think a food processor is the best way to do this as it tends to chop rather than integrate air as a mixer would.

The final product looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

My husband made these tonight -- SO good.

As for the egg carton--he just flipped the carton over (like you did with the shot glasses) and that worked pretty well, albeit not as well as the shot glasses.