For my sweetie’s birthday, I decided to go all out and cook recipes from the French Laundry cookbook. I was very intimidated by the recipes because I had never purchased oysters, duck, or caviar before nor did I know where to get them. What the heck do morel mushrooms look like? and what the H are tapioca pearls? I psyched myself up and decided to attack this challenge head on.
Google is my best friend. If you are ever in a situation when you go to Whole Foods and ask where the tapioca pearls are and they look back at you with puzzled gazes, just google it. How could I not know that tapioca pearls are in bubble tea? What a bad Asian I am! Also, google images helped me find morel mushrooms without any assistance. Btw, they are the weirdest looking shrooms.
For the first course, I made oysters and pearls (see entry about Napa & French Laundry). This was the most luxurious, romantic, and decadent dishes I’ve ever made. Trying to find Malpaque oysters was a headache so I ended up using Kumomotos because they are creamy and delicious. I splurged and got the caviar. I don’t really understand why fish roe is so expensive but I plan to google that later. This dish was all about timing so I prepared myself by reading the recipe over and over about 30 times. The end result was sublime divinity. I made 6 servings and we ended up eating all of them.
The second course was a lot easier to manage. Thomas Keller recommends Hudson Valley duck but I didn’t have the time to order it and it was expensivo!! So I went to the meat place across from the place I got the oysters. They had Long Island duck so I bought 2 breasts. It was cheaper than getting fish! I LOVE duck it’s juicer and tastier than chicken. I don’t understand why Americans don’t eat more of it. You never see it in the daily rotation of weekly family dinners. The creamed corn was amazing because there was no cream in it. The morel mushroom sauce was so earthy and delicious. The whole dish came together perfectly and I was impressed by my plating skills.
For dessert, I made Nutella cake. This is the easiest recipe and there is no flour so it’s gluten free! This cake only lasted 1 day. Everyone loved it.
Nutella Cake adapted from Nigella Lawson’s recipe
6 large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-13 ounce jar of Nutella (yes, whole thing)
1 tablespoon rum
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
4 ounces whole hazelnuts,
1 tablespoon rum
1/2 cup heavy cream
How to make it:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9-inch springform pan.
- In a large bowl (preferably metal), whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff. In another bowl, cream the butter and Nutella, then add the rum, egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in melted chocolate.
- Add a blob of beaten egg whites to the chocolate batter, and mix gently until well-combined. Fold in the remaining whites, one-third at a time, very gently but thorougly. Pour into springform and bake for 40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting tester, which should come out mostly clean.
- Lightly pressing finger into top to check for a slight bouncing-back; and observing edges beginning to separate from pan. Let cool completely, in pan, on a rack.
- Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet, shaking them around frequently. Do it for about 5 minutes, or until they are lightly browned, then let cool completely. Or buy them already roasted like I did!
- Chop chocolate, and add to sauce pan with cream and rum over medium-low heat. Once chocolate is melted and components are combined, whisk until mixture reaches desired thickness, then cool. Remove rim of cake pan and pour cooled ganache over, spreading lightly to create a smooth, shiny surface, and apply hazelnuts all over. Let the ganache settle and meld with the top of the cake (resting at least an hour). I left the cake in the fridge over night.
Overall, this was a great experience. We never cook like this because of time and money constraints. It was a great way to test my cooking skills. I had never made stock from scratch before or cut vegetables mirepoix style. Thank you Mr. Keller for forcing me to slow down and enjoy the process of cooking in a way that I never knew was possible.
Carol’s pictures really helped me
French Laundry at Home
Oysters and caviar
Wild Edibles @ Grand Central Market
43rd and Lexington
Ceriello Fine Foods @ Grand Central Market