Foodbuzz 24×24: Ringing in the New Year with Champagne and Caviar

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.

Asti Sorbet
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.

Mango-Passionfruit Caviar
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.

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Crawfish Boil in NYC


I’d seen 24, 24, 24 proposal requests from Foodbuzz many times, but was always busy the day it was to happen. This month was different; I checked my schedule to find I was free, and I really wanted to participate.

What’s 24, 24, 24? Foodbuzz, a food blogger community I belong to, showcases posts from 24 bloggers around the world, highlighting 24 unique meals happening around the world, all within 24 hours. When I got the email asking for proposals this month, I had only one thing on my mind. Crawfish.

Much like a beloved food blogger in New York City, I am a fellow Homesick Texan. I miss the variety of foods from around the Gulf Coast. Among the many foods I miss, crawfish is at the top. I remember St. Patrick’s Day marking the start of crawfish season in the area, and there were many times my family bonded over buckets of the well-seasoned crustacean among a bed of spiced corn on the cob and potatoes.

For this month’s 24, 24, 24, I wanted to share that favorite pastime with extended family members in New York by flying in live crawfish from Louisiana and having a crawfish boil in my own apartment in Long Island City. I invited my sister-in-law Jenn, her sister-in-law Nina, and all the husbands to join the fun. Nina brought her Flip to document the process, and I even had my friend Irene help photograph the event.

If you’re interested in having your own crawfish boil in an apartment, follow the steps below. You won’t regret it one bit.

Update: Nina just sent me her video, and it rocks! Thanks a bunch, Nina!

Crawfish Boil With Talida from Christina Jeng on Vimeo.

Crawfish Boil

Live crawfish (3-5 pounds per person)
Large steamer pot with basket
Seafood boil
Red potatoes (at least 2 per person)
Corn on the cob (at least 2 per person)
Newspaper, bibs, paper towels


1. Order live crawfish from the Louisiana Crawfish Co. Get the party pack if you won’t be able to make the spices on your own; I did and it tasted pretty good. Upon arrival of crawfish, immediately open and inspect for movement to make sure the crawfish are mostly alive.

2. Fill steamer pot with water and bring to boil. Once boiling, dump in seafood boil according to package directions. Add potatoes and corn and boil for 15 minutes.

3. While water is boiling, purge the crawfish. This cleans the bayou goo from the critters. Dump crawfish into a sink or big bin, fill with water and drain. Add salt liberally to the soak, and rinse a couple more times as wanted.

4. Boil the crawfish for 5-10 minutes in the steamer basket. Potatoes and corn should be ready along with the first batch of crawfish.

5. Put on some Zydeco music. You can’t eat crawfish without it. I used Pandora to create a Zydeco playlist, and it really set the mood. Serve a lot of beer (we had a great assortment of hefeweizen) and continue to boil crawfish in batches.

6. Instruct friends and family how to eat crawfish, complete with sucking all the good stuff from the crawfish heads.

7. Eat, drink, and enjoy. Here are the newlyweds enjoying their first crawfish boil!

The seasoned married couple and crawfish eaters going at it.

The women were still eating so the husbands graciously peeled the rest of the crawfish for later use.

Oh, the aftermath of the crawfish boil. Lining all eating surfaces with newspaper makes for a really easy cleanup.

I was very pleased with the quality of service from Louisiana Crawfish Co. They were fresh, they were huge, and the spices were spot on. From now on, when I start to complain about not being able to get crawfish in the Big Apple, I’ll look back on this post and remember that a good ol‘ fashioned crawfish boil is not impossible, even in a tiny apartment in LIC.