There is more than one pebble on the beach
Pebble stones, sand, dead leaves...
This is a recipe inspired by one of the best and innovative French chefs, Christian Le Squer, chef at the 3-star restaurant "le V" of the hotel George V in Paris, one of my canteens in a previous life... I discovered it 2 or 3 years ago in the French Top Chef program. Since then, I have been willing to replicate it but, despite that, unlike in the US version, chefs and candidates use to explain with a sufficient level of details their recipe, I thought this was too complex for me. Christian Le Squer's name should spell "Le Scare" in this case! But I was bold enough to make an attempt for this year's Thanksgiving meal.
Before detailing the recipe and, also, my personal twists to it, I would like to convey two messages:
- I consider myself like a decent home cook and surely not a chef, not mentioning a starred chef... This should not prevent us, home cooks, from trying new things that, we think, are beyond our skills and capacities. This is the only way to progress in cooking and this is so rewarding even though we do not reach our model-chef level. Hey, don't forget that this chef may have tried 100 times this recipe before achieving it perfectly!
- When we try to replicate a chef's recipe, we may be tempted to take some shortcuts, to apply simpler methods or to use substitute ingredients, because we don't have the right tools, the right ingredients and/or the right skills. This is totally normal. But try your best to follow the chef's recipe. At his level of expertise and sensitiveness, he has a reason to use this technique or this ingredient. I will develop the recipe below, but here, Le Squer dips the foie gras pebbles in a mix of non-fat milk, miso and agar agar -or agar and agar and gelatin, as I don't know exactly in the same way as I don't know exactly the quantity of miso! Miso is an ingredient I am not familiar with, well, in fact I never used or tasted it before yesterday, and my first intention was to skip it. I thought this was just another effect of this trend to systematically "japonify" every recipe! However, I ordered some miso and I made a try. Honestly, I was at first not convinced at all by its taste, alone, or after I mixed a "certain" quantity in the milk. I found it too strong, too pregnant, too... different. I even thought of pitching my preparation and of making another one, lighter in miso, or even miso-free. I hate to pitch and this is what saved me, so to say. After the milk gelled around the foie gras stones, the miso appears to match perfectly with the foie gras, and in fact to have a very similar taste! QED.
To make this trompe l'oeil of pebble stones of foie gras, I first poached the foie cubes (from Dartagnan.com) in a seaweed broth for 5 to 10 minutes depending on their size. I rested them overnight in the fridge before dipping them in the famous miso flavored non-fat milk, with 2 tbsp. of miso paste for 300 ml of milk, 4 g of agar agar and the quantity of activated charcoal to reach the desired color. To coat the stones, I used a wooden board in which I had previously drilled 25 holes or so. I dipped the foie gras "pebbles" in the grey milk using toothpicks and I studded them in those holes. Then, you just need to let it cool down. Eventually, it appears to be very simple and it makes a beautiful "wow" starter that could even be prepared a day in advance.
I served those stones on a "sand" layer, i.e. toasted, ground, and truffle flavored hazelnut and bread mix, cider-candied and maple leaf-shaped apple slices, some seaweed from the broth and jalapeno jelly...
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