Sunday, December 23, 2007

Roquefort Trifle with French Butter Pear Relish

I'm a little sad today. This was the last cheese dish I made as part of French Laundry at Home. Let us bow our heads for a moment of silence.

> urp <

Sorry 'bout that, but I'm still burping up Roquefort from this dish, and loving every minute of it. And, while I'm sad that this is the last cheese dish in the book, I'm elated that I finally made a dacquoise that didn't look like turdis caninus.

Here we go...

The first layer in the trifle is a pear purée. To make this, I wrapped 6 allspice berries and 15 black peppercorns (no more, no less) in a piece of cheesecloth, tied it closed into a little sachet and put it in a saucepan with water and sugar, and brought it to a simmer.

I added six ounces of dried pears, which I'd diced:

I covered the pan with a parchment lid and let them simmer for about 30 minutes. I was afraid it was going to smell like a Crabtree & Evelyn threw up in my kitchen, but it actually was not offensive at all. It smelled smooth and fruity, and a wee bit peppery. I removed the sachet and poured the contents of the pan into the blender and whacked the heck out of the pears to make a lovely purée. Have a look-see:

Next, I made the pear relish. I peeled, cored and diced a Bosc pear, as well as a little bit of red onion and red bell pepper. I put them in a small saucepan with some red wine vinegar and sugar and cooked it over very low heat for about 30-40 minutes and most of the liquid had evaporated:

Next up? Making the Roquefort mousse. I put a gelatin sheet in a bowl of cold water to soften it. I then put room temperature Roquefort cheese (one of my favorites, by the way) in a bowl, poured hot milk over it, then scraped it all into the blender and blended it for about 10-15 seconds. I poured this mixture back into the saucepan in which I'd heated the milk and rewarmed it. I squeezed the water out of the gelatin sheet and put it in the hot milk/cheese mixture to melt and dissolve the gelatin:

I strained this mixture through a chinois into a bowl, then let it chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes until it had cooled completely. I then whisked some cream until it formed soft peaks. I folded the cream into the Roquefort mixture a little bit at a time:

I got the little cups ready for the trifles. I wish I'd had little clear bowls or dishes so you could see the layers, but I didn't have anything that was the right size or shape, so I'm stuck with these suckers:

I put a few tablespoons of the pear purée into the bottom of each cup, then topped it with the Roquefort mixture:

I put them in the refrigerator for a few hours to set.

Now, on to the walnut dacquoise. It's no secret here in French Laundry at Home Land that I sucky suck suck at making anything remotely pastry-related. And, when it comes to making dacquoise, I suck at levels never attained before when measuring suckitude. Witness the dacquoise that looks like a dog got into a box of tissues then had a nice poo. Also, see the dacquoise that had to moonlight as a sort of nacho-esque chip aboard a most fantastic bowl of blueberry soup.

So, imagine my dismay to learn that I had to make a go of it once again... on this, the fateful, final cheese dish of this project. I was heartbroken at the prospect, and almost went out and just bought some freakin' Pepperidge Farm nonsense just because they'd at least LOOK good and I could save face. But no, I knew that wouldn't be fair, so I figured, why not -- let's give these lovely readers one more chance to bust my chops about that fact that, clearly, Stephen Durfee has put a hex on me and I shall never be able to make pastry again!

I preheated the oven to 325 degrees. I then cranked it up to 350 because I remembered that I needed a little more heat (learned my lesson from the last debacle). I also turned on the dehumidifier right outside the kitchen, because I know humidity can have an impact on dacquoise, causing them to be more chewy than crispy. I know I am blinding you with some serious F-ing science, but stay with me.

I put the walnuts and flour into my food processor and pulsed it for about a minute, until the mixture was finely ground, but not overly processed and oily:

In a glass bowl, I whisked some room temperature butter until it was the consistency of mayonnaise:

Next, I folded the floury nut (ha!) mixture into the butter:

In a separate bowl, I whisked some egg whites until they were foamy, then added some salt, whisked some more, then folded that into the nuts, flour and butter mixture:

The texture was kind of gloppy and spackle-like, which I wasn't sure was normal, but I soldiered forth and using an offset spatula spread it onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet so that it was about 1/8" thick:

Using a 2" biscuit cutter, I cut circles into the dacquoise so that they'd be easier to cut when they were done baking:

I put the dacquoise in the 350-degree oven for 12 minutes, then turned the pan, baked them for another 15 minutes until they were an even brown and firm when I touched them:

Can you believe what you're seeing, boys and girls? No turds. No cracklins. Just good ole-fashioned dacquoise, the way they're SUPPOSED to be. And, on white paper towels (YAY!) to boot. No more of those stupid floral jobbies, no sir.

With the dacquoise complete, it was time to assemble the dish. I took the trifles out of the refrigerator, placed a dacquoise on each one, then topped the dacquoise with a bit of pear relish and served my guests:

These? Were delicious. I could have eaten twenty of them. Maybe more. Even though each element of the dish was scrumptious on its own, the real trick was to get a little bit of everything on the spoon all at once -- the pear purée, the Roquefort mousse, the crunchy, walnutty dacquoise, the pear relish. Together, the combination was glorious. Sweet, nutty, tangy, salty, and sharp, but harmonious all in its own special way. The textures worked well together, and the tastes were truly a delight. I already loved this combination from the get-go because one of my favorite salads to make is an endive, pear, walnut and roquefort salad with a homemade honey-dijon dressing. So, I had an inkling this dish might be pretty damn good. And, even sweeter was the victory of my dacquoise. What a fitting way to close out the cheese chapter of this fantabulous book. Stephen Durfee, I love you, man.

In just a few hours, I'll be heading back to my Amish homeland for some Christmas cheer. Whatever you celebrate -- Christmas, Chanukah, Festivus -- I hope your time off is or has been enjoyably restful and has left you feeling sated in every way.

Up Next: Tasting of Potatoes with Black Truffles

Eggs and spices from Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op
Roquefort, walnuts, onion, red bell pepper and pears (fresh and dried) from Whole Foods
Organic Valley cream
365 organic butter

Music to Cook By: The Dream Academy; The Dream Academy. I listen to this album at least once every winter because it reminds me of driving with my younger brother to Ski Roundtop for our ski club. Everyone knows Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town" but I think I'm partial to "Edge of Forever" as a favorite nostalgia song because it opens with the lyric, "When you were young, did you ever love somebody" to which my then-13-year old brother yelled, "NO!" and I almost drove off the road laughing so hard. I still can't listen to that song without hearing his voice yelling "NO!" And, the whole Dream Academy thing came full circle a year or two ago when my brother and sister-in-law drunk-dialed me at 1 a.m. wanting to know "the name of that band that sang the northern town song" to which I replied, "do you mean Dream Academy?" There was a split second of silence, followed by a rather loud "HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" from my sister-in-law. Why? Because my brother swore up and down that the band's name was Icicle Palace. Snerk. And we continue to remind him of that on a pretty regular basis, and now the Internet will, too. I'm the best sister EVAR!!!11!1!!!!


Hillary said...

Happy holidays! Give my regards to the Y.C. I'll get back there, someday.

Hillary said...

PS --
Ski Roundtop?! Now you're really taking me back. :) Too funny, I was just reminiscing about that place.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on finally conquering your Daquoise Nemesis! The dish looks delish, as always. There is always something about fruit and cheese together that makes my tummy happy.

And I must say, you look very fetching when reflected upside down in a bunch of spoons....

michael, claudia and sierra said...

one of the great travesties of my life will always be that i am not your neighbor... this dish looks wonderful! loved the post...

Robert said...

Great post! I particularly love the Crabtree & Evelyn line. The trifle sounds fabulous.

Cynthia said...

hi! i just stumbled upon your blog and i must say wow! this sounds lovely - i do love my salty, sweet and cheesy together. gotta try this sometime!

and your foie gras post...gosh it must be one of my biggest indulgences. give it to me pan-fried, terrine, any form!!! ;D

Almost Vegetarian said...

This looks gorgeous, but I just can't wait for the Potatoes with Black Truffles. I'll be back...


Anonymous said...

This sounds excellent! Thanks for the inspiration to try this soon!