Previously, on tastingmenu.wordpress.com –
Ingredients do not recognize national boundaries -Iron Chef Michiba
Diner: …we love what we’ve eaten, but it was not Japanese food
Iron Chef Morimoto: Why isn’t it Japanese, and why must it be? –Masaharu Morimoto, Morimoto: The New Art Of Japanese Cooking (p. 7)
…you have created a recipe perfectly because there was that passion behind what you did…this is my greatest hope – you’re going to create something that you have deep respect and feelings and passions for. And you know what? It’s going to be more satisfying than anything I could ever make for you. -Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook (pgs 2,3)
As I was thinking about the Christmas meal, I was thinking to myself that the menu really needed a starter course. I’d been thinking about Chef Keller’s salmon cornets for quite a number of years and it occurred to me to put my own spin on the dish. But Chef Keller’s dish is such an iconic work. Why not do an Asian take on the dish. The immediate twist that occurred to me was to use a crisp wonton wrapper as the cone. Making the cone to me by frying it seemed to be a cliche – but perhaps baking it as a nod to Chef Keller’s tuile seemed to be a far more appropriate course of action. I’d been unable to find the #35 pastry tip, so I resorted to using a cream horn mold to wrap the wonton into a cornet shape. The wonton wrappers I used was the 4″ circular variety (Chef Keller fills 4″ hollow circular stencils (4″ diameter?)).
The technique for creating the cornet begins by placing the wrapper on a flat surface. I started by dusting the cornet mold with flour so that the mold wouldn’t stick when I finished wrapping. The pointed end of the cornet mold is place on the circular wrapper in the 7-o’clock
position. I then moistened the left vertical strip on the wonton wrapper (so that when I finished rolling, it would be sealed). The wrapper on the right side of the cornet mold is folded up and around the pastry tip/cream horn cornet mold. At that point, roll the cornet upwards towards the left; wrapping the circular wonton wrapper tightly around the mold.
To bake the cones, I lightly sprayed them with canola oil and then popped them into a preheated 375 degrees for 10 minutes. As it would turn out, I checked them at 10 minutes and they weren’t GBD (golden brown & delicious). A major concern of mine was that the cones that were lying on the baking pan wouldn’t hold their shape. I was right, they flattened out a little bit.
After 20 minutes, the cornets were clearly GBD. Tasting the cornets told me that they were clearly cooked through and nice and crisp. I think if I trimmed the top of the cones so that they have even flat circular rims, I might stand them points up so that they could hold their shape and cook through.
So I took another crack at doing these cones a bit later; but this time, trimming the opening so that I could stand them, point side up to see if I could get them to retain their shape. So I re-rolled 2 cones and trimmed the wide ends to get them to stand points up, lightly sprayed
them with canola oil and baked them at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes
I needed to let the cones cool before I could use them. So the next step would be to finely mince smoked salmon into tartare form.
I had to guess the amount of smoked salmon for this dish, so I guessed it was about 4 slices.
Chef Thomas Keller indicates that 4 ounces of salmon is required for 24 cones in his iconic recipe. So perhaps I was looking at 1/3 ounce (2 teaspoons of mince smoked salmon)?
I went ahead and minced the 4 slices of smoked salmon, portioned out 2 tablespoons of creme fraiche (a la Nishino).
I then proceeded to make 1/2 teaspoon of fresh wasabi and then mixed it into the creme fraiche.
I realized I had to pipe the creme fraiche mixture into the cones so I placed the mixture into a ziplock bag as a makeshift pastry bag.
Into two pony cups went the wonton cones and then I clipped a small corner of the bag containing the wasabi creme fraiche.
And so I began piping the creme fraiche mixture into the cones. It appeared that I only needed half the mixture for the two cones.
I used a 1/2 teaspoon measure to fill/mound 1 teaspoon of the tartare into each cone. The cones were then garnished with 1/8 teaspoon of caviar. My wife was absolutely surprised when she saw the appetizer offering. She was even more surprised when she tasted this amuse bouche and agreed it would make a great holiday meal starter. While I also enjoyed the appetizer, I was thinking the crisp wonton cones had more of a texture akin to a cracker. I have to wonder what it would be like if I used 4″ circles for cones cut from spring roll wrappers with the tops trimmed.
A final observation – Chef Keller’s salmon tartare combines fresh salmon, olive oil, lemon oil, chive, shallots, salt/white pepper. By comparison, Chef Matsuhisa’s tartare combines fresh sashimi grade fish, onion, garlic. Chef Keller’s creme fraiche combines 1 tablespoon finely minced red onion (rinsed in water) to 8 tablespoons of creme fraiche, seasoned with salt/white pepper. I think when I re-make this dish, I will try to combine garlic and shallot with sashimi grade salmon for the tartare. I found this to be a great learning experience and am looking forward to making this offering for the holidays