This past New Year’s Eve was a quiet dinner at home spent with my husband’s family to celebrate the life we shared in 2011. We live many miles apart from both sets of our parents, so it’s always a treat to have them visit. We invited my sister-in-law, her husband and their dog over to join us in this celebratory feast. To thank our family for their love and countless prayers for our lives, we wanted to indulge them with a meal featuring a variety of Champagne and caviar. The stars of the dinner were hackleback caviar, paddlefish caviar, tobiko and homemade mango-passionfruit caviar. The dishes were paired with bottles of Blanquette de Limoux, Cava, Asti, and Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider.
I had so much fun planning, prepping and cooking this dinner, and I’m very thankful for my open kitchen that allowed me to be a part of the meal while I cooked most courses immediately before serving. 2011 was full of wonderful dining experiences that have shaped my palate and brought me inspiration for this meal. Through this month’s Foodbuzz 24×24, I not only found a great local supplier of caviar through Paramount, but I’m now an amateur molecular gastronomer (hmm, sounds like a word to me). And now for the menu.
Assorted Caviar Hors D’oeuvres. I opted to serve hackleback caviar on water crackers alongside caviar topped smoked salmon, smoked salmon with double cream brie and capers and onion, and the same double cream brie with truffle honey. The ingredients for the hors d’oeuvres were left on the counter for everyone to snack on as they pleased throughout dinner.
Deviled Eggs with Paddlefish Caviar. The paddlefish caviar was less briny than the hackleback caviar and was silvery-grey in color compared to the hackleback’s jet-black color. Both are great affordable American caviars, and I love this egg on egg dish.
Mixed Green Salad with Tobiko Dressing. I threw this together last minute when I thought we needed more greens. :)
Spaghetti with Tobiko and Shiso. This is one of my favorite dishes at Basta Pasta and I’ve been dying to recreate it. The strong shiso flavor goes so well with the crunchy tobiko, and the roe clung just perfectly to spaghetti.
Scallops with Paddlefish Caviar Sauce over Leeks. Each time I order scallops when dining out, I always leave wanting more. Being in control in my kitchen, I was overzealous with the scallops, allotting for 6 or so per person. This is a feast after all! We had a fair amount leftover, so now I realize that 2-3 is the magic number when it comes to scallop servings. The pros knew; I just didn’t believe them.
Seared Black Sea Bass over Garbanzo Beans. No caviar in the next two dishes, but being a family of seafood lovers, I wanted to prepare two types of fish in slightly different ways. This black sea bass was very fresh so I lightly seared it leaving it rather rare. Topped with some fresh lemon juice, this dish was refreshing.
Pan-Fried Fluke over Spinach. This brought me back to my fluke fishing trip late last summer. Because of the stringent NY fluke regulation, I came home from that trip with zero fluke but lots of consolation porgies. I didn’t catch this fluke, but since I didn’t have to worry about scaling or gutting the fish, I’m okay with that. Fish scaling and gutting is not fun to do in a NYC apartment.
Asti Sorbet topped with Mango-Passionfruit Caviar. I’m still in shock that I pulled this off. First time with any kind of sorbet, first time with the spherification, and they both turned out well! This dessert was inspired by my meal (it really was a show) at José Andrés’ é in Las Vegas. We witnessed so many molecular gastronomy techniques that night, I became curious, but I never had the motivation until this meal.
Now for the fun details that went into dessert. The Asti sorbet was a cinch to make, and the only hardest preparation was cleaning out freezer space for my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment. I chose an Asti for the sorbet because the Asti is a sweeter sparkling wine with a lower alcohol content that would be easier to freeze. Surprisingly, the sorbet still gave us a nice buzz to end the meal with.
750 milliliters (1 bottle) Asti wine
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of one small lemon
1. In a medium saucepan, bring Asti wine to a boil. Mix in sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice.
2. Stir over medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved.
3. Fully cool the Asti mixture before freezing in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions.
I had no idea how the fruit caviar was going to turn out, so I looked for help from resources like Molecular Recipes and Willpowder. I purchased the spherification kit from Willpowder and generally followed the caviar recipe to produce these little guys. The flavor was on the light side, but that could have been my choice of juice. The recipe calls for mixing water with a fruit puree which would help with flavor intensity. One thing I recommend is to find a scale that measures accurately to the tenth of a gram. My kitchen scale only measures in whole grams so I was playing a guessing game based on when the scale rounded up to the nearest whole gram. Not precise at all, but luckily things worked out.
500 milliliters mango-passionfruit juice
1.8 grams sodium alginate
1.3 grams sodium citrate
6.5 grams calcium chloride
1 liter water
1. Carefully measure correct amounts of sodium alginate, sodium citrate and calcium chloride with a scale.
2. Whisk calcium chloride in water to make calcium chloride bath. Keep in fridge until ready to use.
3. Incorporate both sodium citrate and sodium alginate into fruit juice with a hand blender. If using a regular blender, be sure blender is clean of any residue prior to use.
4. Transfer fruit juice mixture into an airtight container and let settle for a few hours in the fridge. At this point mixture is ready to drop into calcium chloride bath.
5. Fill clean syringe with fruit juice mixture and carefully drop into calcium chloride bath. Experiment with height and pace of drops to ensure spheres are forming at desired size. After finishing one syringe-ful of juice, strain caviar with bored slotted spoon and serve immediately. The spheres will continue to gel after removal from the bath, so do not make these ahead of time unless you are aiming to serve balls of gel.