Thursday, July 2, 2009

Appetizer Showdown: Cold Vs. Hot

I had an interesting idea this evening which has blossomed into a new element I am bringing to Pomander Saveur; the appetizer showdown. This idea is devoted to the art of the app, both cold and hot. Basically two appetizers will be prepared and judged before a winning recipe is crowned. I hope to invite guest judges and cooks to either help critique or contribute a dish to the showdown. The inaugural match-up consisted of my interpretation of two classic appetizers; the first was an insalata caprese. Tomato, mozzarella, and basil is as tried and true a combination as onions and garlic. Caprese is the penultimate summer salad and reminds me of happy times in the French countryside. Here I created a caprese mille-feuille with caper vinaigrette. I stacked layers of grape tomatoes and mozzarella dressed with vinaigrette and basil chiffonade. It was very good, especially the interplay between Italian and French culinary traditions but was it enough to bring down the hot appetizer of the night?

The second appetizer was a French bistro classic that is always exceptionally good, asparagus with oeuf mollet and shallot vinaigrette. Asparagus and egg is a very good pairing principally because the richness of the egg yolk brings a buttery quality to earthy asparagus. Oeuf mollet is a fancy French way of saying soft-boiled egg which is exactly what I placed on a bed of steamed asparagus topped with a drizzle of vinaigrette. The egg was slightly overcooked which hurt its standings but overall all it was a very nice appetizer. The acidity in the vinaigrette complimented the egg yolk that made a lovely sauce and the asparagus were perfectly cooked with a nice crisp to them. It was a heated battle and I being the sole judge had a difficult call to make. The asparagus won it. It is a perfect dish and when well executed will knock you or any diner you have over’s socks off. This is just the start of many appetizer showdowns to come and it is sure to get heated as the cold appetizer contingency seeks a big comeback. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Asparagus, Oeuf Mollet & Shallot Vinaigrette
Serves 2

20 Asparagus Spears, trimmed down to tender bits
2 Large Eggs
1 Small Shallot
1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
1/2 Tsp. Honey
1 Tsp. Sherry Vinegar
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

1. Mince the shallot finely and toss into a small bowl. Add the mustard, honey, and vinegar and whisk until emulsified, slowly incorporating the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Bring 2 separate pots of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Steam or blanche the asparagus until just tender, 5-10 mins. Gently dip the eggs in boiling water and cook for 4:30. Drain and rinse the eggs under cold water and peel them.
3. Place 5 asparagus spears in one direction on a plate and then overlap another 5 in a different direction. Place an egg on top of each bed and drizzle a liberal amount of shallot vinaigrette over and around the egg. Season with cracked black pepper and serve immediately.

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