Our Challenge: Create two identical plates celebrating the main item--poached pears.
This project evolved as each element came together one by one, starting with the pear. Chef demonstrated the technique of poaching pears well before each of us was left to create our twin plates. I knew I did not want to use the typical white or red wine poaching liquid so I was left with the option of purees to use at my disposal. I flirted with the idea of using grape juice, but something about made it seemed so expected. Being the unexpected culinarian, I decided to try something completely out of my comfort zone. Going back to my roots, I chose to make an asian-inspired poached pear by using lychee puree as the base of my poaching liquid. Adding a variety of citrus juices and a minimal amount of sugar, just enough to balance the tartness, I finally came up with a great creation. It was, however, missing something. As I spoon-tasted the liquid, waiting for some burst of inspiration, it came to me. Ginger! It needs ginger. Somehow, everything I need is always in Chef's refrigerator. There was a mound of ginger. I've only ever seen my mom cook with ginger a handful of times so I asked Chef what would be the best way to prepare it. He suggested boiling sliced pieces of ginger for about 5 minutes in water to release the bitter taste in the root. After doing so, I added the pieces to the delicious asian-inspired liquid and started poaching.
I made a ginger-infused creme anglaise to accompany the pears and further play on the root's bold flavor. It didn't take long to realize that the dessert seriously lacked in color. Going back and forth between ideas on how to include color in my height or crunch elements, I eventually decided to sleep on it and make my final decisions the next day.
Seriously robbed of a good night's rest, I kept waking up in the middle of the night to new ideas that would leak out of my subconscious.
1:37 AM - "Use Chinese dried noodles for your crunch."
2:15 AM - "There needs to be red on your plate."
3:28 AM - "Stencil pear blossoms with chocolate and fill it with your two sauces. What do pear blossoms look like?"
4:00 AM - BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. Argh, time to get up.
As I showered, I mentally listed off the inspiration received throughout the night and decided on a more cohesive execution for the dessert. At the beginning of class, I penned a rough sketch of my vision and discussed my ideas with Chef who suggested a hollow disc rather rather than a large overbearing disc of isomalt. I changed my mind and instead envisioned a delicate, thin ring of tempered chocolate sitting upon an abstract, bright red net of isomalt for the needed color. I dyed the isomalt with burgundy and red before placing it in between two silpats and melting it in the oven. Deeming the crunchy noodles rather chinese-buffet-esque, I decided to dip them part way in chocolate to make them more appropriate for the dish. I tempered the remaining dark chocolate and spread a thin layer on narrow acetate stripes to form a standing ring similar to those found in oriental architecture. The poaching liquid was my second sauce, so I reduced it and added pomegranate to add a new depth of flavor and color. Lastly, I made the necessary spiced creme chantilly before starting to plate my desserts.
I used dark chocolate to pipe a branch with two hallow blossoms that I deliberately filled with the sauces to appear like two-toned flowers. I broke off pieces of the isomalt and placed them in the lefthand corner of the plate. The pears were set on top--two pieces divided by a canel of chantilly. The ring was placed behind and the noddles were used as a garnish for the cream.
The Main Item
The Two Sauces
Close-up of the Isomalt
One last look at the plate
With a great critique from Chef, I came from this project having learned a lot. Although I am pleased with the experimental effort, there are definitely changes I would make to this plate. For one, I would lose the secondary fanned pear to simplify the plate. Chef didn't care much for the chocolate dipped noodles so in lieu of them I would use some type of nut (maybe candied) to garnish on the creme chantilly or somehow incorporate into the choclate ring. I could completely lose the chantilly altogether and instead, fill the standing pear with an ice cream for a hidden cream factor. Ooo, that actually sounds nice. The sauces (sigh). They were delicious and although they looked really neat on the plate, I could not get enough of them--literally. There needed to be more sauce. Chef suggested a more abstract yet functional design allowing the sauces to play a more significant role. Well, needless to say, I am learning!