Pot Au Chocolat with Fleur de sel
Seitan Sausages wrapped in Puff Pastry
Today we were in "vegan test kitchen" mode.
The caviar has been rattling around in my brain for a couple of months -- it goes back to an entry from the always interesting Ideas in Food blog which displayed a technique for poaching tapioca pearls with apple juice that was later used as a part of a soup.
With blini and caviar (which from came from a jar) still fresh in our minds (and palate) from New Year's Day, the time seemed right to give this technique a try.
Start by soaking 1/4 cup of (Bob's Red Mill) small tapioca pearls for 20 minutes in 1 cup of water.
While that is soaking make the braising liquid. Start with a 1 cup of water in a small pot, and add a 2" piece of kombu. While that comes up to a boil, toast one sheet of nori, put it in a spice grinder and reduce it to a powder. Add the nori powder, along with 1 tsp. of loose black tea to the now boiling water. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes and reduce until you have about 2/3 cup of liquid remaining. Turn the heat down to low and add 2 tsp. of tamari (or 1 tbs. Braggs Liquid Amino's). Adjust as needed, but be aware that the flavor will intensify the longer it sits.
While the braising liquid is simmering, fill a separate pot full of water (almost to the top) and bring it to a boil, place a mesh strainer across the top of the pot -- which will allow the tapioca to be easily removed after each round of blanching (around 45 seconds or so) -- and blanch four or five times, rinsing the pearls off between each round, which will help to not overcook them. You'll know the tapioca is done when it turns translucent and loses all traces of the "white" inside the pearl.
Immediately drain the tapioca and pour into a small saute pan -- make sure they're in a single layer -- and strain the warm soaking liquid over the pearls to cover.
Let the caviar soak until it has come back to room temp, and then refrigerate for at least two hours -- or for a deeper color and stronger taste of the sea, overnight.
The final verdict? Oh, hell yes... ;)
We made the seitan sausages (from Vegan Brunch) again, this time a double batch and smoked them in apple wood. They were pan-fried, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked, like we did on New Year's Eve. But without the book cover shot.
Finally, for dessert we took a stab at veganizing this recipe using soft tofu.
I'd say the flavor, temp and time were spot on, but there was a slight "weeping" issue after they cooled that affected the final texture. Next time we'll makes some tweaks and write up a recipe...