Once again I couldn’t keep my culinary curiosity in check~ I confess, I’ve been snooping around top-league Restaurant Menus for giggles again and, while the hot months of the year kind of left something to be desired on the menus of our local Michelin Star-sporting establishments, I was able to spot something to really pique my interest just a few weeks ago – a starter involving a salmon mousse, fancily smoked salmon from an even fancier sounding manufacturer halfway around the world that is, and an “air” made from chanterelle mushrooms and parmesan.
Now, why anyone would turn chanterelles into a foam is a complete mystery to me, and, for the sake of keeping my tummy’s protest-rumbles under control, I decided to simply ignore the consistency issues one might have with two foamy things on one plate since I assume a 2-Star chef knows what he’s doing… Anyways, the smoked salmon and chanterelle combo – minus the double-fizz – sounded like something seriously worth looking into, so I rolled up my sleeves and bunkered down in my kitchen for a bit – and this is the delicious result of my experiments~
These amounts will net you 2 servings.
The Pecorino Cups
These pretties are the results of me trying to turn a component of the dish into eye candy. I have to admit, they’re kind of fiddly to make, but the aroma of the Pecorino will infuse the whole deal once the warm mushrooms hit the cups without being overly powerful and threatening to clash with the salmon. If you’re not in the mood to mess around with cheese in this way, I’d recommend melting small heaps into simple disks and sticking them into the mushrooms in a decorative way just before serving them. Making the cups isn’t all that hard though, you just need to be very quick once the time comes to shape them.
100-150g Pecorino per cup – try to get your hands on Pecorino with Peppercorns trapped inside. For this dish, the peppercorns make a world of difference~
1) Cover the bottom of a 16cm DIA non-stick pan – I use my pancake pan for this kind of thing – with the freshly grated parmesan and set the heat to medium-low.
2) While the pan is doing its job, hunt down two high-rimmed water glasses – my pick for the job have a 4 ½ cm DIA bottom and a 7 ½ cm DIA opening at a comfortable-to-work-with height of 13 cm – and place them upside-down on your work surface.
3) Once the cheese starts to melt, you might see a dark spot or two, the black of the pan shining through the sweating cheese. Sprinkle some more cheese flakes onto these blotches to patch up the cheesy blanket.
4) Keep a close eye on the pan, because much like with pine nuts, the bane of my kitchen-existence, the cheese takes a while to get going, but once it’s on the move, it will burn quickly.
5) So, as soon as the rim of your by-now-golden disk starts to take on a slightly golden-brown hue, snap on a pair of CSI gloves, cover your hand with a clean, dry towel and very quickly slide the cheese disk onto your towel-covered hand.
6) Slap the disk onto the bottom of the waiting glass – try to center the glass as much as possible as quickly as possible, there’s not much wriggle-room for improvements in a few seconds.
7) Use the towel and gentle pressure to shape the very quickly setting cheese around the glass to form the wavy-rimmed cups.
8) Make sure the area at the bottom of the glass is a tight and even fit, getting the cups to stand upright on flat dishes might turn out to be a lost cause otherwise.
9) The cold glass makes the cheese disk firm up even faster than it would on it’s own, so speed is the key here. If you don’t particularly fancy the outcome of the cup-lottery, I’m afraid you’ll have to start over with a new batch of cheese – breaking up the cup and remelting it sadly doesn’t work.
The Roasted Chanterelles
100g Chanterelles, cleaned and double-checked for stubborn grains of soil
½ Bunch of Flatleaf Parsley, very finely chopped
1 Tbsp Brown Butter
1 Tbsp Crème Légère
Opt: 1 Small Splash of Lemon Juice
1 Generous Scrape of Nutmeg
Salt and freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste
1) Fire up a large, heavy-based pan on high heat, pop on a lid and give it a couple of minutes to heat up.
2) Once it’s at its guesstimated maximum, scatter in the mushrooms and make sure they all fit in in one layer – if they don’t, work in batches.
3) Just on a side-note: If you’re in the mood for a buttery, yet oh-so delicious calory-bomb, almost-deep-frying the chanterelles in 1-2 Tbsp of blazing hot Ghee or Clarified Butter would certainly be worth a thought~
4) If you happen to have particularly large specimen at hand, slice them in halves and pop them into a griddle – cutting surface down – instead.
5) Assuming you’re using a pan, gently shake it from side to side every couple of blinks to keep the shrooms from burning – shaking a griddle on the other hand would defeat the purpose of using it in the first place, so simply turn them over as soon as a peek beneath one of the pretties reveals golden-brown griddle marks.
6) As soon as the edges of your mushrooms start to crisp up – after around 3-4 mins in the pan, depending on their size – have a test-bite. They should be crispy on the outside and tender with a bit of a bite on the inside – “al dente” would be the word if you’d be handling pasta instead… minus the crispy edges.
7) Once you’re satisfied with the consistency, tip them out into a bowl, set the pan back onto the stove and turn the heat to low.
8) While the pan is settling down, season the chanterelles with a generous pinch each of salt, pepper and nutmeg, add half of the parsley and lightly toss the contents of your bowl to distribute the new arrivals throughout the mix. Set the bowl aside, covered with a kitchen towel, while taking care of the “sauce”.
9) Just in case you haven’t made a habit of keeping a jar of “nut butter” aka brown butter in stock yet, here’s how you make a small jar of it – Add 250g of unsalted, high-quality, preferably organic butter to a small saucepan set on low heat. Give it some time to melt, and leave it to simmer for roundabout 10 mins until it changed its color to a golden caramel beneath the white clouds swimming on the surface. Line a fine sieve with muslin, a cheesecloth or a double-layer of paper towels and strain the butter through that contraption right into a sterilized airtight glass jar. Pop it into the fridge and you’ll have the dot-on-the-i-seasoning for all kinds of sauces and soups for the next 8-10 weeks.
10) If you don’t need or want to have a whole batch of that kind of thing at the ready, simply add 2 tbsp of butter to your currently waiting pan, proceed as described above and pour the strained butter back into the pan instead of a storage jar.
11) With the brown butter – previously stored or freshly made – added to your pan and liquefied again, whisk in the crème légère and allow the mixture to work up a gentle simmer.
12) Once small bubbles are rising, add the remaining parsley and a few drops of lemon juice to lighten up the full force of the butter.
13) Dip one of your waiting mushrooms into the sauce and have a taste-test. Adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice if necessary.
14) Take the pan off the heat and get ready to plate up~
Assembling the Dish
The Pecorino Cups
The Roasted Chanterelles
2-4 Thin Slices of your favorite Smoked Salmon or Smoked Ham – for those of you without any particular interest in smoked salmon I highly recommend treating yourselves with a few slices of Pata Negra or Serrano Ham for this one. Yum~
1) Place your cheese cups on two plates.
2) Fill them up with the roasted mushrooms and drizzle the lot with the sauce.
3) Roll the salmon or ham up into roses or fold them in some other way to make them pretty and arrange them on top of the chanterelles.
4) Serve the filled cups immediately, as long as the mushrooms are still hot and the cups crispy~