Plums and Pistachio: Dacquoise, Blueberry Poached Plums, Ice Cream, Chantilly Cream


This is a very good combination of flavors that I tried out in two separate desserts, both are delicious, both imperfect and need some tweaking. The first one is another lift from Daniel Bouloud that features a disk of crunchy chewy pistachio dacquoise with whipped cream and poached plums with a scoop of pistachio gelato. The original recipe uses cherries instead of plums.

Making a pistachio dacquoise is pretty much the same as the dacquoise for one of our favorite cakes. A mixture of pistachio powder, pistachio paste and sugar is combined with whipped egg whites. This mixture is baked until browned and mostly crispy but not brittle. When done I cut it into roughly 2 inch circles and a few smaller ones for  the ice cream.



Bouloud actually does not cook the cherries in his recipe. He just marinates them in a hot syrup. That would be fine for cherries but I had other plans for the plums. I cooked them sous vide with blueberry syrup.  The syrup is just blueberries, water and sugar simmered, mashed and strained. I bagged the sliced plums with the purple syrup and cooked it at 82 C for about 30 minutes.


I liked how this worked out very much. The plums took on the amazing color from the syrup, they cooked perfectly without being mushy and had nice hints of the blueberry. It is obvious from the pictures that the plum took on a much deeper ruby color after cooking. I strained the cooking liquid and reduced it as well to make a simple sauce for the dessert.


Now where the recipe failed is the pistachio ice cream. Bouloud’s recipe makes for a very thick ice cream base with lots of pureed pistachios. The end result had a good flavor but was closer to frozen pistachio butter than creamy smooth ice cream. To plate it I put a disc of the cookie and layered the poached plums in top. I whipped some cream with cherry liqueur and vanilla sugar then piped a nice rosette on top of the plums. A scoop of the mediocre ice cream goes along the side and a few drizzles of the reduced plum sauce.



Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle – 2015) A

It’s a play in three acts about 3 periods of time in Jobs’ and Apple’s life. It’s a movie based on dialogue written so well by Aaron Sorkin and delivered pitch perfectly by the talented cast. I really am not a huge fan of biopics. I feel they are limiting and lack finesse and a point of view. I loved this film probably because it is not a really a biopic but a specific take on a very influential public figure. It does not concern itself with Jobs’ upbringing, his beliefs, his early life, education….and it is all the better for it.

Room (Lenny Abrahamson – 2015) A+

It’s a harrowing experience watching Room and it’s one of the best films of 2015. I knew very very little about it beyond a woman and her child living in a room. I knew it got great reviews but I had read none of them and I am so glad I saw this with none of that knowledge. The performance of that 5-year old kid here is so damn good and heart wrenching. He is perfect in the role of Jack. Humans adapt, survive and heal. In Room we get a film with two acts telling us exactly that story. It’s tough to talk about Room without spoiling it so suffice it to say that this perfect movie will be tough to watch but it is a remarkable piece of work with perfect direction, perfect performances and scenes that so wonderfully capture human emotion that it would be tough not to hold your breath and some tears back throughout.

Halibut en Paupiette, Leek Royale, Red Wine Sauce


One thing off the top here: Leek royale is awesome velvety delicious stuff. Ok, now that I’m done with that, the rest of this dish is very good too even if my execution is not as ideal or refined as I would’ve liked.

Chef Daniel Bouloud made this, a version of it actually, popular when when he was working at Le Cirque. At his restaurant, Daniel, he kept the popular dish in spirit but updated it a lot. In this version here I am doing a hybrid of sorts. The classic original is a fish, usually sea bass, wrapped in thin slices of potato and pan fried in butter. It is then served on top of sauteed leeks with a rich red wine sauce.



In his book, Daniel: My French Cuisine, we get the updated version of the classic. It’s a steamed bass fillet with potato lyonnaise “rolls”, a rich leek custard (the aforementioned royale) and the classic red wine sauce, a Bordelaise. I started working on the recipe with the leek custard because that takes the most amount of work and needs to set in the fridge. I simmered the green part of the leeks along with Italian parsley until tender. I then cooked the drained greens in some cream and blended the whole thing, strained it through a fine sieve, seasoned it and blended in eggs and more cream.



To cook it, I lined a small loaf pan with plastic wrap for easy removal later. I wrapped it with aluminum foil and cooked in a bain marie in the oven until set. This took a bit longer than the recipe recommends. I let the royale cool and popped it in the fridge until dinner time. Before plating, I gently unmolded the royale and cut it into neat 1 inch cubes and let them temper and come to room temperature. I tasted a few on their own. It’s rich with a lovely flavor of leek and has such a great smooth and comforting texture. For a few days after serving it with this dish we enjoyed the leek custard leftovers as a random side dish with dinner. It also goes great spread on crispy bread for a snack.


Next I prepared the red wine sauce by reducing stock, plenty of red wine and some port along with shallots and thyme. Then I whisked in a crap load of butter until we had a glossy rich sauce. Chef Bouloud uses a vegetable sheeter to make long perfect sheets of potato which he uses to make strips to wrap the fish. I don’t have one of those contraptions so I bought the longest potatoes I could get my hand on and used the mandolin to make long paper thin sheets. This worked pretty well. I seasoned the halibut fillets with salt and pepper and some thyme. Then I brushed the potato sheets with clarified butter and used them to wrap the fish.


The mistake I made here is to let the wrapped fish sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. The salt drew some moisture out of the fish in the meantime. So, it was a bit of a pain to get the fish to brown in clarified butter when I was cooking it for dinner. With some careful gentle heat I got the potato/fish packets cooked well, but next time I will wrap and fry the fish right away.

To plate, I poured some sauce on the plate and topped it with the fish. I put a couple of royale cubes on the side. I dressed a small salad made primarily of parsley leaves with lemon and olive oil. The salad went between the leek custard cubes. The flavors were awesome and the whole thing worked. With a bit of care with cooking the fish the dish could be quiet spectacular.


Uncle John (Steven Piet – 2015) B+

I love to slow cook a brisket on my smoker every few weeks or so. I wake at at 3:00 AM, get the meat on the smoker, make some coffee and start a semi-random possibly good possibly crappy movie. I call these brisket movies. Since I’m half awake half asleep I mostly expect these to be mediocre. Well, this brisket movie is pretty damn good. Uncle John is not a serial killer as I expected him to be. The film actually unfolds with very little exposition as we meet John and his nephew who lives in Chicago. We learn about the murder victim from John and his old buddies at the coffee shop. We go along while the nephew is falling for his new cute coworker. The romance might be a bit clunky but it is very sweet and stands in stark contrast to the turmoil of the little Wisconsin town where John is keeping secrets and trying to stay a step ahead of his murder victim’s unstable brother. When the two stories meet up we expect big emotional explosions, expositions but no, the director does a good job maintaining the tension and giving us just enough of a peak into the past and John’s motivation. We manage to stay with the story, care and look forward to what happens next.

Mr. Holmes (Bill Condon – 2015) A-

He’s 93, his brilliant mind is not what it used to be but the character of Holmes played here by Ian McKellen is as interesting to me as ever. In this film, Sherlock is a real person who reads the books Watson wrote (fictionalized) about him and even goes to a showing of one of the movies based on him. What really kept me interested is the wonderful performance by McKellen who plays old Holmes and very old Holmes as two distinct characters. It might not be a tightly wound mystery movie but it is a tender and well made film.

The Overnight (Patrick Brice – 2015) B+

A young couple move to L.A. with their son. They meet a cool hip couple, Kurt and Charlotte, with a kid the same age as theirs. They are invited for dinner and drinks at the L.A. couple’s awesome house. They have dinner, then drinks, then pot, and slowly things get…weird. This is a pretty good drama that keeps pushing the limits of its protagonists. How far would they go? What is plain old weird and uncomfortable as opposed to dangerous or creepy? Maybe Kurt and Charlotte are just lonely and need friends.