Chocolate-Covered Fish Sticks and Veal Liver Creme Brulee
Last week the Village Voice “Fork In The Road” blog wrote about “14 Foods That Haven’t Been Invented.” This featured, in no particular order, the following dishes so far out on the cutting edge that only Village Voice food bloggers could possibly conceive of them – or so it would seem:
1. Chocolate covered fish sticks
2. Pizza ice cream
3. French-fried salt
4. Venison flavored gum
5. Kidney creme brulee
6. Square meat balls
7. Pocket watermelon
8. Pig’s milk cheese
9. Artificial ramp flavor
10. Dog jerky
……Etc. – you can click through to read the remaining few, but you get the idea. The thrust of the article is that these are all ideas whose time has come, once everyone has gotten over pork belly, cupcakes, pho and pricey comfort food.
Now, J. Burger and myself take our roles as pace-setting culinary literati very seriously, and if there are envelopes in need of pushing, then we will be in first in line to push them. It is one thing to sit at your desk posting snarky lists about foods that ought to be invented – it is quite another to fire up the test kitchen and actually make those foods a reality (for better or for worse). Accordingly, we each agreed to tackle one of these “un-invented” foods, with the goal being to produce an edible version and, of course, to blog about it. Many of these were out of the question (e.g., “dog jerky” and “pig’s milk cheese”). Others were deemed too easy (bagel french toast). When the dust had settled, J. Burger had decided to pursue chocolate covered fish sticks, while I was scheduled to produce a kidney creme brulee. You can learn more about the chocolate-covered fish sticks in an upcoming post, since J. Burger’s test kitchen moves a little slower than mine.
KIDNEY CREME BRULEE
Sounds gross, right? Basically, offal whipped up into a sweet dessert. Who could possibly want to eat such a thing? My first problem was finding kidneys, since I have a lack of decent butchers where I live. So, I went to Ye Olde Whole Foods and found an attractive piece of veal liver, which I decided would be an acceptable substitute.
The next thing that happened was that I remembered that I had been served almost this same dish at a certain 4-star restaurant in Columbus Circle (the other one), in the form of a foie gras brulee. So much for this being an “un-invented” dish! At any rate, the last thing I need is a lobe of foie gras sitting in my fridge, so veal liver would have to do.
The first thing to do was to chop all the liver (6 oz.).
Then I heated it with some cream (3/4 cup), gently, and dumped it in the food processor with two eggs, 2 tsp. of sugar, and a healthy pinch of ground coriander.
I pureed this mixture and strained it through a mesh strainer. I had to add the solids back to the food processor and process a couple more times to get everything strained.
I divided the mixture among a couple of different size ramekins, then pre-heated the oven to 250 f. I put the ramekins in a shallow pan and filled it up halfway with hot water, then put them in the oven once it had pre-heated. After about 35 minutes I took them out and let cool.
Finally, I sprinkled sugar to cover the top of one of the ramekins and ran it under the broiler in my toaster oven for several minutes until the sugar melted.
So, this recipe doesn’t really make a brulee (which should be fairly custardy), but rather it comes out more like a mousse. The problem is, I think, too much liver and not enough eggs and cream. Also, 35 minutes is too long in the oven, it should probably be checked after 20, and removed as soon as it has just set.
The melted sugar actually worked very well, it goes to show that you don’t need a blowtorch to get that kind of hard sugar shell that you can break with a spoon. The dish ended up tasting quite good – rich and livery. It is not the sort of dish that will convert those who don’t like liver, though. I think to really succeed as a genuine creme brulee, I would need to dial back the liver and emphasize the “brulee.” Either way, this wouldn’t be served for dessert. I made a sort of impromptu apple-ginger chutney to go with it, thinking it would help cut the richness, and it worked just fine. The next day I slathered it onto toasted slices of bread and spread strawberry jam over it, and it was delicious – as far as I’m concerned, that is the way to eat, in true “comfort food” fashion.
So, what did we learn? Well, first, that this sort of thing is not for everyone. But also, that it is hard to come up with truly original ideas. It seems to me that this concept has been around as long as people have been making foie gras terrines, which has been quite awhile. So, I guess it is up to J. Burger to come up with something truly groundbreaking when she starts her important work with fishsticks. We’re counting on you!