So…first post, lets hit the ground running. No better place to start than day one of 2016. I will be pairing Kamasi Washington’s “The Epic”—a 3 hour marathon of a record— with Thomas Keller’s equally epic Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion and Crème Fraiche.
Photograph by Deborah Jones
First a little backstory…
We’ve all had impactful events in our lives that create lasting mental associations and inform our tastes for better or worse. For me, the strongest New Year’s Eve association was created back in 1999 at Times Square. That year, my father and I bundled up for the sub-zero temperatures and, with much determination but little sense, headed down there around five. When you secure a spot you are corralled in by police barricades and you can’t leave if you want to keep your place. The result is an intimate group of about a million progressively freezing and drunk people who have to pee. I recall looking in one direction and seeing a resourceful group of women creating a human privacy circle and taking turns pissing on the cement; elsewhere shirtless frat types were screaming ceaselessly, oblivious to the cold. A man next to me kept discreetly passing me his thermos of hot Baileys and coffee to which I obliged. All in all a debaucherous scene for a fifteen-year-old. I didn’t want to leave but I did stare longingly up at the cocktail party goers looking comfortably down at us from the windows of the surrounding buildings.
To invoke that same festive atmosphere with a seedy element my mind went to Prince for the music. For the food I thought of a take on beef fried rice—which is what I had after midnight that year; I shifted gears and thought I’d create a new mental association for New Years by getting my one percent on like the folks in the skyscrapers. Some classic sounding jazz seemed the better accompaniment for that purpose. I chose the Kamasi Washington record because it is long enough to get you through both the cooking and much of the gathering. Also, it gives you the refined feel with a just the right amount of modern hip—he’s known for his collaborations with Flying Lotus to give you an idea of some of the textures he peppers in. The jazz feel still controls the musical frame throughout.
The recipe I chose involves making “cornets” to resemble ice cream cones when filled with the Crème Fraiche and salmon tartare. They are festive and bourgeoisie enough to help us feel like we are looking down at the freezing proletariat from a cocktail party in the sky (in reality we just had two couples over at our humble apartment in Beacon, NY and hoped the babies stayed asleep).
The recipe was a hit. I encourage everyone to try this out. It was far easier than I expected once I got my hands dirty.
A few pointers to add on to the instructions below…
1. If you can’t find the cornet molds cut 4″ diameter circles out of manila folder material, roll them into a cone, and wrap them with aluminum foil.
2. When rolling the molds leave a relatively large opening at the mouth of the cone—mine were a bit too small so I couldn’t fit as much tartare in as I would have liked.
Other than that, follow the recipe and tips from the book below and don’t be intimidated. These puppies are delicious and will make you feel elite, especially when paired with a flute of champagne and some Jazz. Happy New Year!
Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion and Crème Fraiche from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook
1⁄4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
2 large egg whites, cold
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
Salmon Tartare (makes about 3 ⁄ 4 cups)
4 ounces salmon fillet (belly preferred) skin and any pin bones removed and very finely minced
3⁄4 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3⁄4 teaspoon lemon oil (see Sources page 315)
1 1⁄2 teaspoons finely minced chives
1 1⁄2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Small pinch of freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
Sweet Red Onion Créme Fraîche
1 tablespoon finely minced red onions
1⁄2 cup créme fraîche
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
24 chive tips (about 1 inch long)
For the cornets: In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the softened butter until it is completely smooth and mayonnaise-like in texture. Using a stiff spatula or spoon, beat the egg whites into the dry ingredients until completely incorporated and smooth. Whisk in the softened butter by thirds, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary and whisking until the batter is creamy and without any lumps. Transfer the batter to a smaller container, as it will be easier to work with.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Make a 4-inch circular stencil. Place a Silpat on the counter (it is easier to work on the Silpat before it is put on the sheet pan). Place the stencil in one corner of the sheet and, holding the stencil flat against the Silpat, scoop some of the batter onto the back of an offset spatula and spread it in an even layer over the stencil. Then run the spatula over the entire stencil to remove any excess batter. After baking the first batch of cornets, you will be able to judge the correct thickness; you may need a little more or less batter to adjust the thickness of the cornets. There should not be any holes in the batter. Lift the stencil and repeat the process to make as many rounds as you have molds or to fill the Silpat, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cornets. Sprinkle each cornet with a pinch of black sesame seeds.
Place the Silpat on a heavy baking sheet and bake for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until the batter is set and you see it rippling from the heat. The cornets may have browned in some areas, but they will not be evenly browned at this point.
Open the oven door and place the baking sheet on the door. This will help keep the cornets warm as you roll them and prevent them from becoming too stiff to roll. Flip a cornet over on the sheet pan, sesame seed side down, and place a 4 1/2-inch cornet mold at the bottom of the round. If you are right-handed, you will want the pointed end on your left and the open end on your right. The tip of the mold should touch the lower left edge (at about 7 o’clock on a clock face) of the cornet. Fold the bottom of the cornet up and around the mold and carefully roll upward and toward the left to wrap the cornet tightly around the mold; it should remain on the sheet pan as you roll. Leave the cornet wrapped around the mold and continue to roll the cornets around molds; as you proceed, arrange the rolled cornets, seam side down, on the sheet pan so they lean against each other, to prevent them from rolling.
When all the cornets are rolled, return them to the oven shelf, close the door, and bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes to set the seams and color the cornets a golden brown. If the color is uneven, stand the cornets on end for a minute or so more, until the color is even. Remove the cornets from the oven and allow to cool just slightly, 30 seconds or so.
Gently remove the cornets from the molds and cool for several minutes on paper towels. Remove the Silpat from the baking sheet, wipe the excess butter from it, and allow it to cool down before spreading the next batch. Store the cornet for up to 2 days (for maximum flavor) in an airtight container.
For the Salmon Tartare: With a sharp knife, finely mince the salmon fillet (do not use a food processor, as it would damage the texture of the fish) and place it in a small bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients and taste for seasoning. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the tartare for at least 30 minutes, or up to 12 hours.
For the Sweet Red Onion Crème Fraîche: Place the red onions in a small strainer and rinse them under cold water for several seconds. Dry them on paper towels. In a small metal bowl, whisk the crème fraîche for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until it holds soft peaks when you lift the whisk. Fold in the chopped onions and season to taste with the salt and white pepper. Transfer the onion cream to a container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve or for up to 6 hours.
To complete: Fill just the top 1/2 inch of each cornet with onion cream, leaving the bottom of the cone empty. (This is easily done using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip or with the tip of a small knife.) Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the tartare over the onion cream and mold it into a dome resembling a scoop of ice cream. Lay a chive tip against one side of the tartare to garnish.
Excerpted from The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books) Copyright © 1999.
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