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#943 L'Estaminet and the State of Cooking - part 2
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Last week Al told you about a marvelous little restaurant he found on the Caribbean island of St. Martin called L'Estaminet (www.estaminet-sxm.com). He was delighted by all the up to date techniques they employed there, and Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks was kind enough to explain how these are being used by better chefs everywhere. Today, we thought we could look at a few specific dishes, and troll for some ideas. Chef Ina Urfalinno was kind enough to send us a few of her secrets, which we would like to share. Al records these notes:
1. The first dish I encountered at L'estaminet was a salad, described in the menu as fig, goat cheese and eggplant, three ingredients I love. I thought I would have nicely cut up chunks of these ingredients scattered artfully across a bed of greens. What I got was a cylinder of three ingredients, about 4" tall and 11/2" across, nestled on a plate of greens. What sold the dish was the purity of the flavors.
Technique: make a simple puree of fig that keeps its substance and firmness,a mixture of goat cheese and cream, and a mixture of cooked eggplant and cream. Season as you will. Next: using a transparent plastic tube (lubricated with olive oil or a spray) place the fig on the bottom, the cheese in the middle and the eggplant on top. Chill for at least an hour and then unmold.
Further applications: I would try using ring molds not only for one item but as a means of stacking various elements for dramatic presentations.
2. The next things I discovered was a Brussels Sprout Mousse that blew me away. Giving vegetables an entirely new look is always fun, and transforming them into a mousse is a creative way of putting them on the plate. Ina started with about 12 ounces of Brussels Sprouts which she cooked in water until they were tender, but still very green. She combined them with cream and mixed them in an electric blender. For a final grace note, she added just two or three drops of Ylang Ylang oil, which is valued for its aroma.
3. Emulsions: these are thoroughly blended mixtures of oil and a featured ingredient such as basil that are stabilized. An emulsifying agent such as lecithin de soya is useful to keep the mixture bound together. Also a very good food processor is necessary to first puree the ingredients into a very fine texture, then to blend them with the oil at very high speed. In a cautions that you want to get a maximum of air into the mixture. Mayonnaise is a classic emulsion, but variations are endless. In a served a basil emulsion, and we've read about others based on products as diverse as red peppers, herbs, tomatoes, peanuts, lemon, and carrots.