Saturday, November 14, 2009

Under Ripe

There’s a part of me that believes that it’s impossible to improve on nature. Well, not impossible, but there are few things that beat a good apple eaten out-of-hand. Or cherries. Or a nice, sweet, delicious mango. When the product is good, there is no reason to mess with it. It almost seems a sin to make a peach cobbler if your peaches are sweet and juicy. If, however, you find yourself with fruit that are a little under ripe…

I have to admit that I spent very little time thinking about what the special was going to be this week. My mind was on chocolate, and the holidays, and our Guatemalan line cook getting deported… ya know, the usual. So, when my alarm went off this morning, I found myself doing what I always do when I don’t have I good idea: I copy someone elses.

Tarte Tatin is on a lot of menus right now because apples are amazing this time of year. Woefully, apples don’t really fit with the sushi theme. Believe me, I’ve tried to make apple desserts at Jianken, and while they’re all taste, they are decidedly “not sushi.” I instead found myself looking at mangoes. I searched three of my local supermarkets to find good mangoes, but even the nicest ones were firm at best. A smart person would scrap that idea and go back to the drawing board, but being stubborn as I am, I decided that I would make this Mango Tarte Tatin anyways. I bought them, peeled and ate a bite of one and was pleasantly surprised to find that while hard, they were still fairly sweet. I diced them up and into the oven with some palm sugar, which has a slightly molassesey taste, and butter.

Classically, Tarte Tatin is apples that are baked with sugar and butter with the crust baked on top. The whole thing is then flipped over and cut into wedges. It should be very caramelized and dark. Mangoes, when roasted, tent to drop a significant amount of their liquid, which means they would turn to mush before they started to caramelize. To get around this, I roasted the mangoes until they were just soft, and drained off all the moisture, reserving it. I then made a basic clear caramel sauce, but used the roasting liquid in place of the water.

To order, the caramel is heated in a small saucepan with the mangoes, then stacked in a ring mold. A pre-baked circle of Sablé Breton is added on top, followed by cucumber granita, that way, when the ring is removed, you’re left with three distinct layers. I finished off the plate with a little avocado cream, a quenelle of chantilly, and a phyllo crisp to add a different kind of crunch.

Cucumber Granita

Yield: ~1 quart

20oz English cucumber, seeded and chopped

4oz Sugar

4oz water

1T Lemon or lime juice

1) blend all ingredients in a blender for 5 minutes, or until completely smooth

2) strain with cheese cloth or a coffee filter over a bowl. Allow to drain until all liquid has separated out

3) freeze solid and flake with a fork

Why cucumber and avocado? Well, I love using avocado for dessert. It’s delicious and creamy and possibly better sweet than savory. In fact, if everything goes according to plan, I will be adding some sort of avocado chocolate to this year’s collection. Cucumber granita is something that I have wanted to try making, partly because I think cucumbers taste more like a melon than a vegetable, but mostly because I have always had, in the back of my mind, an idea to make “dessert sushi” that actually uses sushi flavors, not just the style. Plus, its pretty rare that you can get something that green in a dessert naturally. That’s right… there’s no food coloring in it.

“But David,” you say, “That plating looks a lot like the apple Tarte Tatin at D Bar.” Why, yes. It does. I like to think of it as an homage to them, not as copying. Either way, I think that the final result was damn good.

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