Jelly of Quail, Langoustine Cream, Parfait of Foie Gras, Truffle and Oak Toast, Scented Moss
Specialty Equipment: water bath, digital thermometer, vacuum machine, thermomix, dehydrator, pressure cooker, PacoJet
Specialty Ingredients: gelatine 170 Bloom, nitrite salt, maltodextrin DE19, oak extract, oak moss extract, glycerine, deionised water, maltodextrin DE8, TIC gums alginate 488T, black truffle
Dish as in The Fat Duck:
I remember the time when I hated recipes that stated: ‘The day before you want to make this dish…’ It seemed so exaggerated to start on a recipe the day before you were going to eat it. It is un understatement to say those days are over, although with this dish I asked myself for the first time what the hell am I doing? The recipe takes a really long time to make and requires lots of patience. What separates heartfelt enthusiasm from plane silliness?
Though, when it all comes together and you eat something unlike anything else it is, for me, easy to forget the time spent on a recipe that could easily translate to dozens of simple home cooked meals. Contrast makes life interesting. Forget about all that, lets get on with the dish.
As a note, I didn’t make the ‘oak film’, which is made from oak extract, oak moss extract, glycerine, deionised water, maltodextrin DE8, TIC gums alginate 488T, FMC biopolymer viscarin TP389 and aspartame. Please forgive me!
Nestled on the bottom of the bowl is a pea puree. Just boil some peas in a fluid of choice and in the food processor it all goes. Right? Nope. Fat Duck pea puree is of course more elaborate. The first interesting part is the use of frozen peas. Forget that fresh is always better. Frozen peas are picked and immediately chilled, so they keep their fresh flavor. For ultimate smoothness the book instructs to remove the skins by shortly blitzing the peas and pushing them through a sieve, making the skins stay behind. It is one of those nasty kitchen jobs, pushing raw pea centers through a fine sieve. When you have this dish in The Fat Duck or eat something in restaurant that obviously requires mind numbing fiddliness thank the commis and not the chef for the meal.
The sieved peas go in a PacoJet at the Fat Duck. That apparatus can puree stuff to an incredible smoothness, without the need of any extra liquid to get the machine going. I pureed the peas (frozen to simulate the PacoJet process) in a thermomix with the cream that, in the recipe, is added at the end, to give the machine something to work with. I let is run for 10 minutes and ended up with a pretty smooth puree, but not a perfect one. The puree is fisnished with some gelatine.
The next layer is a quail jelly, made from a quail consommé. It is basically a coldish, gelled stock. It is classic French cuisine. I remember one time, a while back, my aunt ordered a dish in a restaurant in France that was accompanied by a broken up cold jelly, much like a granite. I’d never seen it before. She explained it used to be more omnipresent, but has fallen out of grace with modern cuisine. I have never seen it since that day.
The basis of the consommé is a chicken stock made in an open pot and then used to cover the quails in a pressure cooker. To make the consommé you have to fry onions with star anise (there is a technical explanation in the book on the boost this gives to meaty flavors), fry chopped up quail meat (was quite the mayhem in my thermomix to chop the whole quails) and cook this with vegetables and the chicken stock.
After sieving the stock you have to completely freeze it and slowly thaw it in a fridge for about two days. The process is called ice filtration and is incredible, because it gives you an ultra clear consommé without the use of egg whites (=loss in flavor).
By the way, the stock smelled incredible. The smell hit me from miles away, giving an indication of the powerful flavor.
The top layer is langoustine cream. It is made like a regular shellfish stock (frying vegetables and shells, although in this recipe there are three separate frying processes). Like the peas it is finished with gelatine. Here’s a video on the preparation of the langoustine shells, as used in the book, by Heston himself.
The layers are topped with a foie gras parfait and fig tuile. The fig tuile is made in a dehydrator from fresh figs, dried figs, maltodextrin and port. See other posts on drying with maltodextrin.
The recipe instructs to cook the puree for 6-8 hours (!) on a gentle simmer until stiff, but mine was ready after about an hour. They probably use a digital induction plate to regulate the heat.
I didn’t use a template, but just made two large sheets of the puree and carved some squares before drying them.
The parfait is made from foie gras, chicken livers, butter, eggs, Madeira, port, brandy (I used whiskey), nitrite salt, onions, garlic and herbs. With the right equipment it is relatively straightforward. You first have to poach the livers, eggs/alcohol reduction and butter in a water bath at 50˚C, blitz them in a thermometer at 55˚C for a short time to emulsify and then cook it in a terrine mould in the oven at 100˚C. I used a regular cake tin covered with aluminum foil and it worked like a charm. I thought is was going to be really difficult, but it went all smoothly.
You usually have to remove some fat, veins and green spots. See picture below for all three.
Just off the mark.
Reducing all the alcohol with onions and garlic.
The jelly is served with truffled toast, made with truffle butter. For the amount of butter the recipe asks for a LOT of black truffle. In the spirit of getting myself through the tail end of the Winter I cut back on the truffle. The toast is garnished with radishes, chervil and fried in some foie gras fat, but more on that later.
An unusual ingredient in the butter is oak extract. It fits in with all the moss elements of the dish, the ‘Fat Duck film’ and apparently has an affinity with black truffle. Here’s you can see all the components of the dish in The Fat Duck.
Pain de Seigle. It is a lighter version of Rye Bread and very flavorful.
Slices of Pain de Seigle fried in foie gras fat and finished on the other side with the truffle butter.
To finish the dish: diced baby turnips (leftover from the pigeon dish).
Pea puree and quail jelly.
The truffled toast with radishes and chervil.
The final plate.
Hm. Not yet decided what to make of this dish. I think this is one of those dishes where the execution is very important. It are such complex flavor combinations, that any variation in texture or taste can make a huge difference. The pea puree and foie gras parfait were very tasty. The langoustine cream was a bit bitter, so I think I didn’t do the recipe justice. The quail jelly is, well, cold. You can hear the waiter instructing (in the video in the link a few pictures back) to eat all the layers together. I think it rings the most true for the jelly, which is tasty in combination with the other layers, but on its own a bit unusual. It’s the same as the sardine on toast sorbet. It is such a deviation from expectations it requires a switch in your mind to appreciate the flavor instead of asking yourself what the hell you’re eating. That said, I think the combinations show real inventiveness and creativity. It is an exiting, delicious and fun plate of food. I just think my execution delivered a slightly different (hopefully) end result as the restaurant, so I would love to try this for real.
Oh yeah, the truffled toast is awesome. Just awesome. Someone please start selling the stuff by the bucket loads. Someone? Please?