Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Paper Chef non-entry


I know… you are all waiting for the round up. Let me divert your attention with my non-entry for this edition of Paper Chef.

As you should know by now, the ingredients featured this month are:

  1. Lime

  2. Beets

  3. Pears

  4. Aphrodisiacs

My first attempt at using these ingredients in recipe was a failure. I had little time at hand so my first though was to make a juice with half a lime, one very large pear, one beet and a bit of ginger (the aphrodisiac). When you have a juicer the process is simple and self-explanatory. The problem is that even when you are able to do exactly what you intend to do it does not mean that your first idea was a good one. The taste of raw ginger made the juice totally undrinkable. I hate to say this but we wasted good ingredients as no one at home was willing to take a second sip of that awful juice after the first one.

My second attempt was, fortunately, much more successful. This time I cooked a beet root carpaccio with a warm pear and walnut compote and grilled pieces of pig heart.

Yes, we had pig heart to celebrate Valentine’s day; isn’t it romantic? Heart is a delicious piece of meat and I wonder why it is not used more often in this part of the world. I first tried it in Peru eating the local street delicacy “anticuchos de corazon” (heart kebab). The interesting thing with pig heart is that it does not taste exactly like pork, I would even say that the flavour is closer to veal or beef. Anyway, you should try it and judge by yourself but for now let’s call this our aphrodisiac… And if you find eating heart objectionable, you can substitute it with another kind of meat or marinated extra firm tofu. I also included a few other aphrodisiacs in my recipe: vanilla and cayenne pepper.

The recipe

  1. Roast the beets, peel them and slice them very finely. Overlap the slices in circles in serving plates. Let them cool under a plastic wrap until service.

  2. Prepare a balsamic vinegar reduction sauce by reducing balsamic vinegar and a little brown sugar until the liquid coat the back of a spoon.

  3. Prepare chive oil by blanching very quickly some chive and passing them in the food processor with the oil of your choice. (I prefer a neutral oil for this)

  4. Grind coriander seeds, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and lime zest in a mortar. Add about the same quantity of flour to your spice mix and rub the resulting powder on large chunks of pig heart (the flour is optional but it helps at developing a nice crust).

  5. Cut your pears in small cubes and squeeze a little bit of lime juice on them to avoid oxidation.

  6. When ready to serve, sauté the pears in a pan with some walnuts and a little bit of salt. Near the end of cooking, add a few drops of vanilla and enough butter to create a rich sauce. Place a good portion of this compote in the center of the beet carpaccio.

  7. Cook the pieces of heart, now seasoned, in a pan or on the grill until it is medium cooked. Place a few chunks around the pears and walnut compote.

  8. Sprinkle lima beans and cheese (in this case a nice ‘Bleu Hermite’ from Québec and a Boschetto al tartufo, a sheep and cow milk cheese filled with bits of white truffles).

  9. Top the pears and walnut compote with a watercress salad (or any small greens you might have). In my case, I made a quick dressing using olive oil and sherry vinegar.

  10. Finally, drip the balsamic reduction and the chive oil over and around the beets.

The result was fantastic. I am extremely proud of myself here. The flavours integrated surprisingly well, even the heart and the pears. This is definitely a dish I would do again. I might try to improve a few things though. I would, for instance, pick pears that are not entirely ripe to keep the sweetness of the compote as low as possible. I would also opt for beets of different colors so that the balsamic reduction and the chive oil remain visible. I might even consider using larger plates so that these two sauces have a place of their own around the beets.

Stay tuned for the round up!

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