Tweaking tradition

Posted on December 4, 2005 by Aun

We held another dinner party yesterday evening, hosting two friends from Singapore and two friends visiting from out of town–Washington DC and Bhutan. S and I planned a simple menu of 4 small courses, each a slight tweak of some of our favorite classic dishes.

Duo of Mentaiko Pasta and Prawns with a Salted Egg Crust
Our first course was a plated combination of two of my all-time faves. I’ve written about Mentaiko pasta in the past, so I won’t go into details here. For the prawns, I used a recipe from Jereme Leung’s New Shanghai Cuisine, a book that S helped to write. I love seafood cooked and coated in a salted duck egg yolk sauce. The sauce has a super-rich and utterly delicious umaminess that I can never get enough of. My favorite version of this prawn dish here in Singapore is the one served at Hu Cui, a fantastic Shanghainese restaurant in Ngee Ann City. Every time I have it, I can’t help but lean back in my chair and moan in pleasure. It’s that good. Understandably then, I was thrilled when I discovered a recipe for “crab claws and prawns with a salted egg crust” in Jereme’s book. I was even more excited when I realized how easy it was to make. Essentially, the egg yolks (separated from the whites) are steamed for 5-7 minutes and then allowed to cool. Once cooled, the yolks should be chopped up into tiny bits and set aside. The prawns need to be coated in potato flour and then fried over high heat in some (normal vegetable) oil. Once they’re just cooked, drain the oil and set aside the prawns. Then melt some salted butter in another fry pan. Once the butter begins to foam, toss in the chopped up egg yolk. Stir until it becomes a saucy paste. Then throw the prawns in, stirring everything gently until the egg yolk sauce coats the prawns thoroughly. For our dinner party, we used a long rectangular plate, setting a twirl of Mentaiko pasta, topped with nori, on one end. On the other end, we gave each person 4-5 prawns, topped with a small spoonful of tobiko.

Thomas Keller’s Caesar Salad
S and I love this dish. It’s also one of the few recipes from The French Laundry Cookbook that doesn’t require a team of assistants or a professional kitchen. Essentially, this “salad” is a crouton topped with a parmesan custard topped with a parmesan crisp topped with Romaine lettuce chiffonade topped with some parmesan shavings (phew!). This all sits in an anchovy dressing and complimented with a balsamic glaze. I particularly like this for a few reasons. First, it looks fantastic and always gets a fantastic, jaw-dropping reaction from friends. Secondly, I love the combination of textures–the creamy custard contrasting elegantly with the crunchy parmesan crisp and crouton. The flavors, as you would expect from a Thomas Keller recipe, all blend beautifully. The balsamic glaze, especially, lifts the dish gorgeously.

Pie Floaters of Braised Leg of Lamb with Roasted Garlic and Pea Purée
S and I really enjoyed coming up with this recipe. We love pie floaters. We first discovered them in Adelaide, South Australia, while attending Tasting Australia, in 2001. I think it’s a particularly Australian invention. Essentially, it’s a meat pie, turned upside down and bathed in either pea soup or topped with a healthy portion of mushy peas. Over this is often squirted ketchup or gravy, and sometimes both. While this may not sound like a culinary masterpiece, it’s damn tasty. Especially after a big night out. S and I wanted to see if we could come up with an elegant version to serve friends. For the purée, we used a Nigella Lawson recipe for a roasted garlic and pea soup that I’ve loved for years. But because we wanted the purée slightly thick, I used a bit less stock and cream than Nigella’s original recipe calls for. I also added a few drops of malted vinegar. S made a tart case following a recipe from Susan Purdy’s The Perfect Pie. For the meat, we used a recipe for Seven-Hour Leg of Lamb from Molly Stevens’ All About Braising. The lamb came out wonderfully. We’d previously tried Anthony Bourdain’s 7 Hour Leg of Lamb, which was fantastic, but because Ms Stevens’ recipe used more vegetables and more liquid, we thought it might work better for our pies. Once cooked, we deboned the leg, shredding the meat and setting it aside. Then, we puréed some of the braised vegetables with the braising liquid and some additional chicken stock. This was mixed into the shredded lamb meat and allowed to rest in the fridge overnight–allowing the flavors to develop. Right before serving, we heated up the lamb ragout and divided it into the tart cases. On top of this, we placed a small round disc of puff pastry. I’m happy to report our nouveau pie floaters went across really well. And despite some concerns about how well the flavors would go together, they worked fantastically.

Profiteroles with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Valrhona Chocolate Sauce
I adore profiteroles. And I’ve been bugging S for years to make them for me. I also love the combination of caramel and fleur de sel. S found this ice cream recipe in a book we’ve only just acquired, Artisanal Cooking by Terrance Brennan and Andrew Friedman. For the profiterole pastry itself, she turned to her favorite baking book, Baking Illustrated, from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. These were fantastic as well. The salted caramel flavor of the ice cream was incredibly intense, which was tempered by the pastry and challenged in just the right way by the chocolate sauce. While I’m usually a traditionalist–favoring vanilla ice cream in my profiteroles–I have to say that these were pretty special.

Dinner was complimented with a bottle of Jacquesson Cuvée 729 and a bottle of Cheval des Andes 2002. The Champage was wonderful but the red wine, while good, probably needed a few more years to mature.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. cin December 4, 2005 at 7:12 pm

    what an impressive meal! btw, the pie-floater is definitely only in SA. You won’t find it anywhere else in Australia and i don’t know many ppl who have tried it :-)

  2. Anonymous December 4, 2005 at 9:39 pm

    Hi, CH, S,
    I’ve lived in Adelaide and other parts of Australia for 10+ years and could never bring myself to try the infamous pie-floater – it looks so um…unappetising? :-)
    But your meal for your friends (lucky people) looks fantastic, as usual. Most inspiring.
    LY

  3. Monkey Gland December 5, 2005 at 7:12 am

    You are having a laugh! Simple???!! Looking good mate!

  4. Anonymous December 5, 2005 at 9:57 am

    hi, have been reading your blog ever since it was publicised in the papers. you and S really have great talent in cooking and presentation skills. Should you guys ever open a restaurant, i would definitely pop by! Thanks for giving such great reads!

  5. 2-minute Noodle Cook December 5, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    Yum! Never heard of the floater pie till now. Looks like a great way of presenting the humble pie!

  6. Frederico December 5, 2005 at 2:21 pm

    where can you buy packets of Mentaiko in Singapore?
    And i can’t quite imagine how you’d eat the floating pie without it turning into a mess on the plate….
    But given the chance, i’d sure love to try… say….. you folks need any pianist/violinist to accompany your dinner parties? ;0

  7. Frederico December 5, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    Ooo..i just did a search on Pie Floaters, and the authentic pie floater does’nt even come close as presentable as yours! I think you have successfully made the pie floater more classy.
    The one i see on the sites simply look horrendous.

  8. Vivilicious December 5, 2005 at 7:08 pm

    You and S. are seriously hardcore dinner party throwers! Too bad so many of my friends are so lame I would love to attend one of your dinners and reciprocate as well (for people who would appreciate it!) Perhaps next time I’m in Singapore, sigh… Keep up the yummy work!

  9. Lil December 5, 2005 at 8:16 pm

    looks good to rival michelin star restaurants!! yumm….

  10. J December 5, 2005 at 8:32 pm

    heart-stoppingly fabulous – the food and the pictures – as always.the profiteroles are genius…b.is still sulking…

  11. Chubby Hubby December 5, 2005 at 9:42 pm

    Cin: Thanks! Yah, I just googled “pie floater” and discovered, amusingly, that the pie floater was inducted as a South Australian Heritage Icon in 2003.

    LY: If you make it back to Adelaide, try the one from the cart in front of the Hilton. Surprising yummy.

    Monket Gland: Cheers mate.

    Anonymous: Thanks so much. S did guest chef in Salt once, but I doubt we’ll be opening a restaurant any time soon. It’s just too much work. We have considered doing the HK private dining thing though–offering set menus for 10-12 people once or twice a month. If we do, you can bet I’ll post about it.

    2-Minute: Thanks. S and I have a big thing for pies.

    Frederico: You can buy Mentaiko at either Meidiya or Isetan. Unfortunately, we have no room for a musician in our tiny apartment, but if we ever get a bigger place, we’ll definitely think of you. But out of curiosity, are you a professional musician?

    Vivilicious: Well, we also have friends who aren’t that into food. The challenge, of course, is converting them. :-)

    Lil: Thanks! That’s so sweet.

    J: Thanks. Poor B, I couldn’t believe he was quaking while watching W eat his profiteroles!

  12. S December 5, 2005 at 9:52 pm

    Ooh, Frederico, I’d love to have someone come play the violin for his dinner!

  13. Frederico December 5, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    Haha! I’m not professional yet.. but i am an aspiring passionate singer/songwriter who plays the piano and violin. :)
    You could sample my music (Chinese/english/instrumentals) at http://www.Winterealm.com
    I’ve also started a podcast music show on http://thewinterealm.blogspot.com

  14. Tokyoastrogirl December 6, 2005 at 2:43 am

    Your food looks and sounds so gorgeously delicious and here I am, at work trying to not drool over my keyboard!! As usual, CH, you and S have outdone yourselves with the food and the photography.

  15. megwoo December 6, 2005 at 3:38 am

    INCREDIBLE!

    Although I laugh at your description of this as a ‘simple’ dinner.

  16. Sam December 6, 2005 at 3:16 pm

    I laugh about a pie called a “floater”.

  17. Chubby Hubby December 6, 2005 at 11:04 pm

    Tokyoastrogirl: Thanks!

    Meg: Okay, maybe not that simple, but compared to some of the other meals we’ve made, this one wasn’t so hard.

    Sam: Pie Island?

  18. yoony December 7, 2005 at 7:22 am

    wow, both your food and photos are impressive! the profiteroles look amazing and is making me hungry. are you in the food industry?

  19. Yas December 7, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    Hi CH and S, your photos are heart-stopping! I’m getting more and more intimidated by the food each time I visit your blog! Keep up the exciting write-ups and photos! You deserve to win the blog awards!! I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of your exotic finds and new recipes.

  20. jolyn December 28, 2005 at 10:39 am

    Hi,
    I’ve always tried making Profiteroles but the pate a choux will be always wrong. Can you share your recipe for the Profiteroles?

  21. S December 28, 2005 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Jolyn

    This is another recipe from my trusty copy of Baking Illustrated.

    2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
    70g unsalted butter cut into 10 pieces
    2 tbs whole milk
    6 tbs water
    1 1/2 tsp sugar
    1/4 tsp salt
    70g unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted

    Beat the eggs and egg white in a small bowl. Measure out 1/2 cup, discard the rest.

    Bring the butter, milk, water, sugar and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture reaches a full boil (butter should be melted), immediately remove from heat and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until combined and the mixture clears the pan. Return to low heat and cook, stirring constantly using a smearing motion until the mixture is slightly shiny and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the saucepan, about 3 min.

    Immediately transfer mixture to a food processor and process with feed tube open for 10 sec to cool. With machine running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream. When all the eggs have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and process for another 30 sec until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.

    Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees C. Grease large pan and line with parchment paper.

    Place profiterole paste into piping bag. Pipe into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch mounds 1 to 1 1/4 inches apart. You’ll get around 24 mounds. Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in a bowl of cold water to smooth even out the shapes of the mounds.

    Bake for 15 mins (do not open oven door) then reduce heat to 190 degrees C. Bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 8 to 10 mins longer. Remove tray, with a paring knife cut a 3/4 inch slit into the side of each puff to release the steam. Return puffs to the oven, turn off the oven, prop door open with a wooden spoon. Dry puffs in the oven until the centres are just moist (about 45 min). Transfer puffs onto a wire rack to cool. Cooled puffs can be stored at room temp for 24 hours.

  22. jolyn December 29, 2005 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks!

    Was wondering if I can get Baking Illustrated from bookshops like Kino?

  23. S August 22, 2006 at 5:00 pm

    hi jolyn

    sorry for the late reply. Yes, you can get the book at Kino

  24. Maurice August 11, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    The good old Adelaide Pie Floater…many fond memories of late drunken nights and rocking up to have a pie floater. I’m keen to try yours – it looks excellent.

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