San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic and food writer Michael Bauer has done us a bunch of favors over the years - for example, he told us about Rosso in Santa Rosa. For that alone, we owe this guy our undying gratitude. He has steered us toward wonderful meals in the past and away from possibly disappointing ones as well.
So, when he got the recipe for this cauliflower custard topped with strips and wedges of colorful veggies from a chef at Poggio, it seemed like a really fun thing to try, despite the somewhat fraught techniques.
Like making veggie strips - never done that before (turns out it's not too difficult). And the custard - what it boils down to is making a white sauce and simmering the cauliflower in that before adding eggs, puréeing and baking, but the technique in the recipe is more complicated than that.
Still, the newspaper picture was compelling and we do love cauliflower, so what the hey?
I chopped and shaved, stirred and puréed, poured and baked, plated and piled, served and sampled, hoping for a really spectacular first course dish for a special dinner. I was imagining a fragile custard that barely held together and tasted of cauliflower, like crême caramel only savory, topped with a tangy, colorful little salad of fresh veggies. Folks, I gotta tell you, the little salad atop the custard was the best part. The texture of the custard was more like a cake and the nuttiness of the cauliflower was nearly lost.
I'm going to try this again because the idea still seems marvelous to me and, knowing my kitchen techniques, it could just be that I made a large boo-boo along the way.
I'm going to tweak the recipe when I try again. I want a more custardy custard and I think small niblets of cauliflower left whole in the custard would actually be a textural improvement. I'm going to spark up that colorful salad with a bit of lemon juice, too, and... well, I guess I'll wait until I've succeeded to talk about all that.
So, my thanks go out to Mr. Bauer for the idea and, of course, for Rosso. I'll keep reading as long as he keeps writing, even if our taste in custards differs somewhat.