First of all, how cool is this?
I remember what must have been seven or eight years ago, going to the Museum of National History, and seeing the Julia Child exhibit. Her famous T.V. kitchen was on display, nice and tidy, no roast chickens on the floor. Where Julia would have been, stood a screen playing famous clips from her show, and some random interviews with celebrities who knew her. I really only remember one short clip, I think it was an interview with Dan Rather, or Tom Brokaw, or some other stuffy news anchor from that time. Whomever it was, was telling a story of how he was throwing a dinner party a while back, in NYC, and had some last minute panicky question about how something should be cooked. Somehow, he got the idea to give Julia Child a call. They didn’t know each other, her name just happened to be in the phone book! So, mustering up a little courage, he dialed her very public phone number, proceeded to ask his question, and received a quick, thorough answer, and a good luck on the night’s event.
I remember feeling just as shocked as Dan Rather, or Tom Brokaw, or whoever it was, because I couldn’t imagine how someone as famous as Julia Child would have her number in the phone book, and how she would be more than happy to answer a random caller’s question.
I do feel , in that particular respect, the great Michael Ruhlman is our modern-day Julia Child. He is an incredibly busy, accomplished chef and author, yet he is famously available (over Twitter, at least) to advise any one of his followers with a culinary query. Not only do I admire his work as a chef, but as a teacher myself, I admire his dedication to the giving of his knowledge to others. If you haven’t yet read anything of his, I’d recommend doing so ASAP.
The truth is, I made this dessert a couple of months ago, but lately I’ve been totally swamped with work, and just haven’t had enough time as I’d like to dedicate to cooking new things and sharing them with you. This has been my second dessert that I’ve made from the French Laundry cookbook, and it turned out to be a real success, despite the general negative bias that people have toward beets.
I, for one, happen to enjoy beets. The idea of beets in anything besides for a salad intrigued me just to the point of really wanting to try this dish, but not being repulsed by the very idea of it. The chocolate cakes here are flour-less, and required some technique that was new to me, but that’s the whole point of cooking these types of food, right?
I began by whipping up 3 whole eggs with some sugar over a pot of simmering water until the eggs became foamy, and the sugar dissolved. Then I put the warm bowl into my KitchenAid, and whipped those eggs until they tripled in volume and cooled down.
Next, I melted some bittersweet chocolate and Earth Balance fake butter–
lightened up the chocolate with a little of the whipped egg, and then folded the rest of the chocolate into the eggs.
Now, the problem here was that this recipe called for the chocolate mixture to be baked in souffle molds. I don’t have souffle molds, and sadly, my kitchen-supply budget has been frozen until, a. I start making more money, and, b. I find room in my tiny apartment kitchen for any new purchases. So, I tried to improvise by double wrapping the bottoms of some ring molds in aluminum foil.
Sadly, this was not a perfect system, and once I partially filled this baking dish with water, (the cakes needed to be baked in a water bath,) a little water seeped through into the bottom of some of the cakes. They were far from ruined, but unfortunately the one I popped out right before Shabbos to photograph wasn’t very photogenic, due to the water damage.
For the beet ice cream, beet juice was required, but I don’t own a juicer, and I couldn’t find any juice in the store. Instead, I peeled these guys–
and tossed them in my blender on high with a little added water to help them go around, then strained the whole bit in my chinois. (Isn’t that basically how juicers work anyways?)
I reduced the beet juice over medium heat until I had the amount required for the recipe
then added it along with the pulp to some creamer, rice milk, and sugar, brought it to a simmer and then let it steep off of the fire for an hour. I made the custard in the usual fashion, by whisking some egg yolks and sugar, slowly tempering them with the warmed milk mixture, and adding that combination back into the pot to thicken over gentle heat.
Once cooled, I ran the custard through my ice cream maker
I ran out of time before Shabbos, (it was still winter when I made these, and I don’t budget my time well on Fridays) and couldn’t complete the other two parts of this dish, namely, the candied walnuts and fried beet chips. So here’s how the sad, waterlogged cake looked with some of the ice cream in a hastily taken picture, without the other garnishes–
Now, while I’m not ecstatic about that picture, or the presentation as I’m showing it to you, I must say that this dessert was pretty darn great. Beet ice cream’s resemblance to raspberry is a perfect defense mechanism against the gag reflex the word “beet” causes to much of our processed food-addicted society. By the time people realize, “Hey! This isn’t raspberry!” it’s far too late, they’ve been tricked into realizing that beets are, in fact, quite delicious.
Until next time!