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Sweet Meets Savory...


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#1 Michael Laiskonis

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 12:25 AM

Finding myself preoccupied by the heavier topics of discussion lately, I feel the need to blow off some steam and have some fun. And a timely way to do so...

I am in the planning stages of an exciting and challenging collaboration. Next month I will be teaming up with a chef to execute an eight course menu. Four ingredients will be chosen, and for each, the chef and I will create our own interpretation- his in the savory realm, and mine in the sweet one. As the seed for this concept was planted months ago on our very own eGullet, I thought it would be interesting to open it up and see what some of you might come up with on your own!

So, give me your ideas for ingredients or products with interesting potential for savory/pastry crossover. The only rule is that there are none. The only limits are those of the imagination, though for the sake of this exercise, realize that real guests will be paying to sample these dishes, so a sense of good taste is obligatory. Also mandatory is the willingness to think outside the box, or better yet, to ignore the box altogether. Rid yourselves of any preconceived notions of course progression. Set aside the conventions of what is or is not a typical pastry component or technique.

Truth be told, I've been making notes for over a week now, and I'll be submitting my initial list of ideas shortly. But don't let that discourage you from brainstorming with me!

I'll show you mine if you show me yours...
Michael Laiskonis
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#2 mikeycook

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 12:32 AM

How about vanilla? I've had excellent savory vanilla dishes.

Edited by mikeycook, 06 September 2003 - 12:33 AM.

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#3 jackal10

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 01:12 AM

Range of neutral ingredients, like eggs, flour, gelatine and hence Aspic/jelly, custards, tarts.
Similarly butter and oils.
Also many fruits like lemons and limes, but also Raspberries, blackberries, redcurrants, grapes
Tomatoes, especially green tomatoes work for both sweet and savoury.

In fact, most carbohydrates and fats can be used for either

Protein is more difficult as a sweet component, apart from eggs and cream cheese, although mincemeat is a fine tradition, as are suet puddings.

Many spices, such as cinnamon or mace are used for both sweet and savoury.

Polish cookery uses a lot of sugar in othersise savoury dishes, as does some Moroccan, and of course sweet and sour dishes.

#4 Mottmott

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 07:10 AM

Add to the list: onions, squash, sweet potatoes, fennel, all citrus, all stoned fruit, pears.

Sage leaves can be deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar. I've seen recipes that use various herbs as a flavoring element.

Many foods open themselves to candying and crossing the sweet/savory line: fennel, citrus peel, ginger, grapefruit rind. Personally I'd experiment with some less familiar ones.
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#5 MatthewB

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 07:27 AM

Rhubarb

Avocados

Sweet corn

Acorn squash

#6 boaziko

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 07:32 AM

Eggplants could go in many directions.
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#7 Mottmott

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 07:34 AM

Maybe it would be easier to list foods that can't swing sweet/savory. :blink:
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#8 Alex

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 07:58 AM

goat cheese

red beans

edible flowers

foie gras

Twinkies

Oops, sorry -- no idea how that last one slipped in there.
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#9 mjc

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 08:07 AM

Why not make it an even more challenging collaboration, and instead of each of you doing four courses, you should both do all eight courses together. Each of you contributing a component to each course.
Mike
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#10 Suzanne F

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 09:27 AM

Bacon. No, seriously: think about the fabulous Candied Bacon the folks in the PNW have so enjoyed.

Cabbage: for the sweet side, cabbage strudel (Gale Gand demoed this on her FTV show recently; her grandma made it because they couldn't afford apples)

Sweet potatoes

Cucumbers

#11 pchef2

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 11:48 AM

Hi, I just discovered this web site and I am so excited to finally talk to other pastry chefs. I currently work in cincinnati at a very upscale eclectic french resturant for the past three years. My partner and I are always looking for new ideas in the pastry area. It gets kind of boring in cincinnati because there are no other resturants in the area that are challenging enough for us to learn from. So it would finally be nice to talk to other people for ideas. But any way back to ideas for the culinary challenge. My ideas for pastry/savory crossover are sweet and savory tomato jam, olive or olive oil ice cream, parmesan or black pepper tuiles, white pepper ice cream, just to name a few, which can be used as either a dessert or on savory dishes. A sweet tomato jam on puff pastry with goat cheese for an app or sweet tomato jam to go with strawberries for dessert. Black olive ice cream to go on top of a venison dish? Anyway just a few ideas I have seen or thought of using. Hope it helps.

#12 docsconz

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 12:00 PM

A challenging ingredient for a sweet dish might be any of a number of mushrooms. I recently had a black truffle flavored chocolate "truffle" from Cacao Sampaka in Barcelona that knocked my socks off so much my toes were sunburned. How would you do porcini for example as a "sweet" dish?

How about lobster or crab in a dessert? Just because I can't think of a way to make it work, doesn't mean you can't :wink: :smile:

Taking more traditional dessert items and using them for savories is less problematic in that most have probably been used in one way or another as part of various savory dishes.

Where and when is this dinner likely to be presented? I would potentially be interested in critiquing it, if needed :cool: :wink: :biggrin:
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
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#13 elyse

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 12:10 PM

I was going to suggest candy button mushrooms. I can't remember the name of the chef from... Oregon? He did a demo at the IHMRS Show. Tiny caramelly smelling mushrooms? I think they were candy button....

#14 pchef2

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Posted 06 September 2003 - 09:08 PM

I thought of some more. A goat cheese ice cream on a fresh sliced tomato salad with basil syrup or basil oil, and then goat cheese ice cream on top of a fresh fig tart.

#15 PastryLady

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Posted 07 September 2003 - 07:30 PM

Sweet potato with cinnamon and clove as possibly a mousse, with orange carmel sauce.

I love the hot and cold on one plate deal and know others do.

Already mentioned this on ravi post : wild strawberry sorbet with cracked black pepper

Portobello/carmelized onion with marscapone/creamcheese


Michael, do you have an idea of what the savory chef has in mind?
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#16 elyse

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Posted 07 September 2003 - 07:53 PM

Chilis?

#17 Michael Laiskonis

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Posted 07 September 2003 - 08:23 PM

I was going to suggest candy button mushrooms.  I can't remember the name of the chef from... Oregon?  He did a demo at the IHMRS Show. Tiny caramelly smelling mushrooms?  I think they were candy button....

That was Paul Connors from Minneapolis (formerly of Radius, in Boston) and he demo'd his ice cream utilizing, I believe, 'cinnamon cap' mushrooms. Paul and the rest of us, along with a couple of new faces, will be teaming up for series of demos again at this year's IHMRS.
Michael Laiskonis
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#18 elyse

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Posted 07 September 2003 - 08:43 PM

Cinnamon Cap? Jeez. Doesn't ring a bell. I remember the ice cream was fab though. As was your sweet potato sorbet etc. etc.. That day really opened my eyes.

#19 Michael Laiskonis

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Posted 07 September 2003 - 10:22 PM

Ok, some of you have brought up some lucrative suggestions, some of which made my list. Other ideas remained rather safe, and 'in the box,' but are good nonetheless.

I like mjc's idea of a true collaborative nature, on each dish, though geography and time constraints might be too limiting. And there are so many potential foodstuffs that it would be easier to compile those that might never work- it would certainly be a short list!

Some of your notes that mirrored some of my mine, include porcini mushrooms, truffles, sweet potato, cucumber (and melon, as when cooked it takes on a cucumber-like flavor), eggplant, bacon, chili peppers, olives, foie gras...

Remember also my initial reference to course progression. This menu will not necessarily conform to the conventional notion of starting from savory and progressing toward sweet. I believe the term 'rolling hills' has emerged as the underlying concept for this project. Thus, proteins begin to enter into the mix. We've mentioned bacon and foie gras, and I like docsconz's idea of crab and shellfish- I recall Heston Blumenthal's use of crab in dessert when he gave us a preview of works in progress during his eGullet Q&A. Other animal-derived thoughts crossing my mind include duck fat, sea urchin, dashi, marrow, caviar, and, perhaps only for the potential play on words, sweetbreads.

I am also keenly aware of this chef's progressive use of ingredients and flavors. Not only do I want to avoid repetition of concepts he has already explored (parsnips, pine, olives, jerusalem artichokes- to name just a few of many), but I do want to bring ideas into the discussion that will challenge him. The crossover does extend to his 'savory' interpretations as well as my 'sweet' ones, and I am very interested to see what we both might do with the following...

Celery root, cauliflower, licorice (root or candy), concord grapes, yuzu, sea vegetables, yogurt, beurre noisette, tamarind, tea and coffee, soy (either edamame, soy milk, or soy sauce), sesame, salt water, chestnut, dates, grains (barley, rice, amaranth, etc.), beer, 'curry', juniper, saffron, malt, quince, 'smoke', sake, banana, persimmon, shiso/oba, gingerbread...

...to name just a few.

So now I widen the scope of this discussion to call for techniques, cooking methods, or general concepts that may prove interesting in the context of this exercise. Let's see what you've got.

PS... For some background on this collaborative menu, it may be helpful to read an initial conversation which began here, and continued privately, as well as a discussion that briefly touches on putting this theory into practice.
Michael Laiskonis
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#20 chefg

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Posted 07 September 2003 - 11:23 PM

This will be one of the most thought provoking meals served, for those willing to open their minds.
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#21 chefg

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Posted 07 September 2003 - 11:26 PM

How about lobster or crab in a dessert? Just because I can't think of a way to make it work, doesn't mean you can't :wink:  :smile:

docsconz:

You need a job? I think you would fit in well here.
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#22 Bicycle Lee

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Posted 08 September 2003 - 12:32 AM

pumpkin would definitely be good.
I always wanted to do porcini caramel, because when sauteed, fresh porcini give off this wonderful, candy-like aroma...
lemon verbena sorbet served with a black truffle touille
carnarole and rolled oat "risotto/pudding"
"neopolitan" of balsamic, vanilla, and foie gras ice creams...

Edited by Bicycle Lee, 08 September 2003 - 12:34 AM.

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#23 docsconz

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Posted 08 September 2003 - 03:13 AM


How about lobster or crab in a dessert? Just because I can't think of a way to make it work, doesn't mean you can't :wink:  :smile:

docsconz:

You need a job? I think you would fit in well here.

Thanks for the offer, but I think I'll just have to content myself by visiting your place next time I'm in Chicago :biggrin:
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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#24 twodogs

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Posted 08 September 2003 - 06:18 AM

ingredients, techniques, ideas are all interwoven such that with the deft hand savory is sweet, sweet is savory and depending on the position in the menu the dish works double duty or perhaps as merely a bridge with no affiliation.

with that in mind here are some interesting ingredients: rib-eye or merely its cap, veal feet, pigs head, hay, raw fish, cocoa nibs, garlic, salad burnett, wood sorrel, anise-hyssop, sea weed, dried shrimp, fermented black beans, rice noodles, matouks hot sauce, mayonaisse...do you want more

techniques: boil in a bag and its many derivatives
flash freezing and quick thawing, giving aroma to cold dishes a question I am trying to answer, fried ice cream savory and sweet mixed together on the same plate which is which does it matter which you try first or is the surprise the key, exploding cuisine such that while a dish may appear savory with a hidden surprise the dish is full tilt sweet

cheers
h. alexander talbot
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#25 Michael Laiskonis

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Posted 08 September 2003 - 08:49 AM

ingredients, techniques, ideas are all interwoven such that with the deft hand savory is sweet, sweet is savory and depending on the position in the menu the dish works double duty or perhaps as merely a bridge with no affiliation.


Yes, that's exactly where we are with this.

With each layer of convention we peel away, we find ourselves with ever more possibilities. Coming up with the dishes themselves may be easier than figuring out where in the 'progression' we end up putting them. I also think it would be an interesting idea to not list whose dish was whose on the menu, to further add that element of surprise, though it may be obvious to those who are quite familiar with Grant's cooking and style.

And to the table I bring the recent experience of a similar guest chef dinner at Susur in Toronto, executed in his 'backward' style, though my desserts still found their place as a traditional ending. I'm still figuratively digesting that experience and concept. Perhaps merely inverting course progression doesn't move us anywhere at all.

I like sous vide, as it is surely a technique that has yet to be fully exploited by pastry chefs. The use of the freezer as a 'tool' is turning some wheels in my mind. I also appreciate your quest for adding aroma to cold dishes, and I've been considering the role of atomizers toward that end- and don't forget Grant's well-practiced 'vapor' technique.

As for your list of ingredients, you make some interesting suggestions... Hay came into my head along with sweetbreads (recalling an old Blumenthal dish I had seen ages ago), though I've never worked with it, nor tasted its effects. I see dried shrimp easily working its way into something; looking to the Japanese and other Asian cuisines, their snacks and 'junk food' alone offer a lot of inspiration. I love hyssop, and I thought of sorrel, but didn't include it as I associate it more as an early spring ingredient. And cocoa nibs- I can't believe I forgot that one!

Good stuff.
Michael Laiskonis
Pastry Chef
New York
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#26 docsconz

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Posted 08 September 2003 - 02:00 PM

This whole concept is extremely exciting, especially in the hands of people who know how to implement it. I really, really, really wish I could get out to Chicago for this dinner. I have yet to dine at Trio or had the pleasure of Mr. Laiskonis' desserts, but I must make a point of it in the not too distant future. Wow, my mouth and mind are both salivating just thinking about this. The pastry chefs of Barcelona are doing great things with combinations of chocolate and all sorts of other flavors and ingredients. Amazing, amazing, amazing!
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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#27 babyluck

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Posted 08 September 2003 - 03:01 PM

I humbly suggest looking at Scandinavian menus. There is a lot of crossover, mainly one-directional (traditional dessert fare masquerading as savory), dishes like rommegrot that are neutral and don't fit into either category, and new flavors that will surprise your customers' palates. But I wonder whether it is the intellectual or the sensual effect you are going for (both, I guess). For example, is it important that they recognize the ingredient and know that it is being used differently?

As a patron, I would be amused, in a boy-do-they-think-they're-clever way, by a meal that was strictly backwards, but I am intrigued by your "rolling hills" idea.
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#28 Michael Laiskonis

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Posted 08 September 2003 - 03:13 PM

I humbly suggest looking at Scandinavian menus.  There is a lot of crossover... 

...But I wonder whether it is the intellectual or the sensual effect you are going for (both, I guess).  For example, is it important that they recognize the ingredient and know that it is being used differently?

Good angle babyluck, and that's precisely why I've always enjoyed and been inspired by the work of Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit.

And yes, I do think the featured ingredients may act as secondary players; many of the ingredients I threw out into the open would be best used in such a manner. Perhaps how either of us chooses not to use a particular ingredient, or rather downplay it, is just as valid as how we might choose to feature it.
Michael Laiskonis
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#29 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 08 September 2003 - 09:52 PM

This is very interesting and I greatly enjoyed reading the other threads you linked into this conversation.

Ingredient choices:

curry paste

fresh ginger root

saffron

cucumber


This adventure seems like a jazz rift and something you can't really plan. I lean toward a harmony of sorts.

#30 KatieLoeb

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Posted 08 September 2003 - 11:55 PM

Vanilla - with lobster for savory, with almost ANYTHING for sweet.

Avocado - I recently had avocado gelato that blew me away. Savory is easy. Sweet you could team it with another ingredient (or not) and do a sorbet or gelato.

Rhubarb

Goat cheese (already suggested, but worth repeating) I've made a savory "cheesecake" that has a layer of pesto and a layer of sun-dried tomatoes in it. Yummy stuff.

Black pepper. Hot and Sour Soup for savory. Black Pepper gelato for sweet.

Mango. As the main component of a savory salsa. As the main component of a sweet dessert or sauce.

I'll think of others...

Katie M. Loeb
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Cheers!
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