Saturday, January 21, 2006

Gambas Sabayon

The sabayon is an excellent addition to any kitchen notebook. Its origins are in Italy, but the French have adopted it quite well. It is a foam that when warm takes the consistency of a sauce, and when chilled becomes a mousse. The formula: eggs/flavorings/wine/heat works equally well sweetened and chilled or as a savory sauce. Some times I make an elegant sweet champagne sabayon to serve as dessert, chilled. It is a thick rich amagam of concentrated flavors.

This dish is a nice appetizer for a special dinner.

Gambas sabayon
For 4 people as an appetizer
Equipment: 4 ramekins, double boiler or metal bowl that fits over a sauce pan.

16 medium to large wild fished gambas or netted ocean shrimp, uncooked
8 spring roll wrappers
2T. butter
1 T. spice mix maison
100 g. green mixed salad

1 head garlic, unpeeled
4 egg yolks
1 T. spice mix maison (that makes for a total of 2 tablespoons)
2 T. lemon juice (fresh)
1 cup white wine
1 t. dijon mustard
1 T. minced fresh tarragon


-Cut the base off the head of garlic, wrap in foil, and bake in a hot oven for approximately 20 minutes.
-Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle but still warm, squeeze the softened garlic into a metal bowl (that will eventually fit over the saucepan.) Add the Creole seasoning and lemon juice and mix the paste well.
-Mince your tarragon.
-Peel the shrimp, remove the heads and de-vein. (For beginners, please note that uncooked shrimp will be blue or green in color. When it cooks it will turn orange.)
-Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C.
-Grease the ramekins and fit two spring roll shells into them, fluffing them into pretty shapes that will eventually hold the shrimp and the sauce like a nest.
-Heat up 2 T. butter in your saucepan and add 1 T. spice mix maison. When the foam has subsided, add the shrimp all at once and cook about halfway, stirring and flipping them constantly. The goal is to finish cooking them in the oven in the shells. (This is just enough to get the outsides to start to turn orange, but not any more, because if you fully cook them before they go in the oven, they will overcook in the oven and that would be a shame.) This should take no longer than about 3 minutes.
-Remove the shrimp to the prepared shells quickly and arrange them in a pretty way, this is how they will be presented in the end. Careful about drips. I use chopsticks to do this for more precision. Slide them in the oven, and set the timer for 5 minutes.

-Rinse out the saucepan right quick and put about an inch (2cm) water in the bottom, and heat the water to boiling.
-lower the heat to keep the water simmering, and place the metal bowl containing the garlic and spice paste on top ove the pan, over the steam.
-Break the 4 egg yolks into the bowl containing the paste.
-Whisk for a few seconds, incorporating the egg yolks thoroughly.
-Add the wine and continue to whisk over the steam until the sauce begins to thicken. -Keep whisking, and add the dijon mustard when you see the first wisps of steam rising from the sauce. It will thicken quickly at this point, and this is when you should add the minced tarragon. At this point in adition to having thickened, it will have turned into a foam. A delicious foam. Be careful not to let this sauce cook much more beyond this point or it will turn.

-When the timer rings (this should time out approximately to the sauce being finished) Remove the shells from the oven. They should be browned around the edges, they will be pretty. Arrange the salad around the plate and leave a little place for the pastry nest. Carefully lift the pastry nests from the ramekins and place them on the plates, use a ladle and give a nice dose of the foamy sauce over the shrimp and around the plate, without covering the salad or the forms of the shrimp too much, their forms are special. Take them to the table immediately.

-Bring the leftover sauce to the table for mopping up by the gourmands.

Variations: Some people don't like tarragon. Never fear, this dish can and has been done without it, with a beautiful garlicky result. The roasted garlic, instead of lifting up and complimenting the tarragon flavor, will become the central flavor. You should consider the seasoning if you omit the tarragon, and adjust with a bit of extra salt just before serving. Another way to do that, if you have some in the kitchen, is to dust the finished dish with fleur de sel.

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