A romantic dinner- Scallop tartar, caviar and white chocolate foam
This year, in mid January, for my husband’s B’day, I chose to give the gift of indulging, a surprise dinner for an enthusiastic explorer of flavors and culinary observer.
What makes a meal special is not just what is on the plate but everything that surrounds it – in particular details being able to relax and make you enjoy the evening. A special evening starts with a glass of sparkling wine or champagne, in this case I chose Bendis, the sparkling rosé from Petro Vaselo.
For this occasion I had to try something spectacular, so I picked one of Heston Blumenthal’ s dinner recipes as they always have a bit of “wow” factor. His book “How to Cook Like Heston” inspires us a lot in the kitchen, it’s full of advice and tricks on cooking. You could handle it even if you are a beginner in kitchen, like me.
“As a chef, I’m asked if there’s a connection between food and passion,” Blumenthal said. “It seems people really want to know if there’s a specific culinary formula that can spice up your love life.” Chocolate, he says, should be included liberally.”
Caviar is such a decadent product and together with the demeanor and creaminess of the white chocolate creates a mouthwatering combination. “Caviar and white chocolate might not seem like a natural match but they both contain trimethylamine, a flavor associated with seafood. It is this chemical love that makes the combo irresistible”. – as described by Foodensity, a site with insights into the world of the food science.
To this combo, Heston adds the delicate and delectable scallops (Coquilles Saint-Jacques). They are no doubt my favorite kind of shellfish, and I particularly enjoy their sweet and subtly briny flavor when they’re raw, in a tartar.
Shellfish are considered a classic aphrodisiac, and no more than the posh lobster, synonymous with decadent dining.
For this recipe, I’ve used caviar that my mother -in -law brought from Galati on holidays. If you can’t find caviar, use salmon roe or flying fish roe instead.
Here is Heston’s recipe and the story of it. I added some comments in italic about my own experience to his recipe.
This recipe is based on a Fat Duck dish that has gone through several incarnations. It began life a decade ago as a disc of white chocolate topped with caviar. It gained a certain notoriety at the time because some people couldn’t accept the amalgam of such unlikely ingredients.
Since then, however, unusual flavor combinations have become more familiar, and this recipe is a prime example, an amazing pairing of rich, smooth chocolate and rich, briny seafood.
For the prawn oil
200 g Olive oil
400 g Whole raw prawns, shell-on
(I used the prawns from the appetizer to create the oil)
For the white chocolate foam base
20 g Groundnut or grape seed oil
150 g Peeled and finely sliced carrot
(approx. 2 large carrots)
50 g Leek, white part only, cleaned and finely sliced
30 g Fennel, finely sliced
45 g Button mushrooms, finely sliced
½ Banana shallot, peeled and finely sliced
½ Clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
15 Black peppercorns
½ tsp Coriander seeds
70 g Dry white Vermouth (or white wine)
1 Sprig of flat-leaf parsley
200 g Fish stock, reduced to 50 g – My fish stalk consist in cooking 100 water, with the same amount of vegetables as in this white foam base together with the shells from the prawns already used and 2 cubes of vegetable stock- I found some natural veg stock in Ki-life in Amzei.
135 g whipping cream
150 g Semi-skimmed milk
(I followed the directions thoroughly)
For the scallop tartar
6 Large cleaned scallops, cut in 5 mm cubes
10 g Pickled lemon, cut into 2 mm pieces (can be replaced by lemon juice) – I used the lemon juice
1½ tsp Chopped chives
3 tsp Walnut oil
¼ tsp Sherry vinegar
To finish and serve
30 g White chocolate, chopped, plus extra shavings
Groundnut or grape seed oil
6 Scallops, each sliced into 3 discs
Caviar or salmon roe
Pea shoots or even chives- for a visual effect.
For the prawn oil, heat the oil in a large saucepan until very hot. Drop in the prawns, remove from the heat, and shake the pan continuously until the prawns turn pink. Allow the prawns to cool in the oil, then strain, reserving the oil. (The prawns can be placed on kitchen roll to drain off the excess oil, then peeled and eaten, or kept in the fridge for later.)
To start the foam base, heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the finely sliced vegetables, garlic, peppercorns and coriander seeds and sweat until the vegetables start to soften (approximately 15 minutes).
Pour in the Vermouth, increase the heat to medium-high and reduce to a syrup.
Add the parsley, fish stock, whipping cream and milk and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and allow to infuse until cool. Strain into a clean pan.
To make the scallop tartar, combine the scallops with the pickled lemon (or lemon juice), chives, walnut oil, vinegar and salt. Using a small ring mold (approximately 5 cm), pack the tartar into the center of six shallow bowls.
When ready to serve, warm the foam base gently and stir in the chopped chocolate until it melts. Season with salt. Pour a little oil on to a plate and dip the scallop discs in it. Season with salt, then sear them quickly on one side in a hot, dry pan.
Rest the scallop discs, seared-side up, on top of the tartar and garnish with caviar, pea shoots and shaved white chocolate. Using a hand blender, froth the white chocolate foam and pour the foam around the mounds of tartar. Make sure you really mix it up very well. Lightly drizzle the prawn oil on the foam, and serve immediately.
Delight is a matter of elegant, subtle choices: customized table details, illuminating the environment by warm light candles, a vintage tablecloth, a Mario Biondi track, good drinks give the night a personal touch revealing that perfection stands in the tiny details that define elegance.
The shrimp and the scallops
The shrimp oil is ready
Adding the shrimp shell to the stock
Straining the stock
Making the scallop tartar
Add the white chocolate to the stock
Creating the foam