Truffled Macaroni & Cauliflower Gratin

I was left with only scraps from the truffle I used for this over-the-top sponge cake and those scallops in puff pastry so what better use for those precious bits than a truffled mac & cheese? Building this simple and gratifying dish on dried pasta is fine, but please don’t let the cheese be ordinary my friends. To make an elevated Mac ‘n’ Cheese studded with black diamond shavings, un gratin de macaronis à la truffe noire, bring on the Comté, the Fontina, the Gruyère and the Appenzeller.

I don’t often talk about wine but I probably should. Since this is adult comfort food at its finest a glass of Barbaresco with hints of cherry, truffle, fennel and licorice is the wine pairing of choice. Nebbiolo-based wines tend to do best when their rich, full flavors are paired with rich foods, and they do particularly well with high flavor cheeses. The cauliflower is absolutely optional of course but it adds a bit more character to the dish. A no-brainer since all these ingredients have such a natural affinity for each other. I’m getting hungry just talking about it.

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Ile Flottante “Tropical”

I often find myself daydreaming about coconut trees and white sand beaches so when the thought of Ile Flottante came up I couldn’t resist giving it a tropical facelift. I’m usually not a fan of microwave ovens but I’ll do an exception today. I’ll show you a great way to make perfect egg white “islands” in a snap. They’ll remind you of fluffy marshmallows. And on top (or rather bottom) of the Tahitian vanilla crème anglaise on which to float those islands I added a passionfruit and banana espuma, because no waves are complete without a little foam. Some coconut flakes sprinkled on top and a caramel tree to add to the landscape and you’ve got the next best thing to a one way ticket to Bora-Bora.

There is some confusion about the name of this classic dessert. In French cuisine, the terms œufs à la neige (“eggs in snow”) and île flottante (“floating island”) are sometimes used interchangeably; the latter is the source of the English name. The difference between the two dishes is that île flottante sometimes contains islands made of alternate layers of alcohol-soaked dessert biscuits and jam. I say, call it whatever you feel like.

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Sea Scallops in Black Tie

The best sea scallops are on the markets roughly at the same time with black truffles so it only makes sense that they appear together in the same dish. Scallops in black tie – a clever combination of scallops, black truffles, spinach and puff pastry – was made famous at Le Cirque and is still, to this day, one of the most popular item on their menu. It follows the old adage that if you put four delicious ingredients together, chances are the results are gonna be delicious x4. Okay, I made that up and I can think of plenty of ways to mess up those ingredients but you get my point. This combination works.

This is part II of the black truffle saga where I make three recipes out of one black truffle. The first installment of this exciting trilogy featured a Black Truffle Sponge Cake that was devoured senselessly by an experienced team of taste testers who reduced it to crumbs. And survived.

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Special Guest Chef: Eric Ripert

It’s a big world but it’s hard to find a chef more accomplished than Eric Ripert. His restaurant Le Bernardin has received four stars from The New York Times, three stars from the Michelin Guide and ranks 18 on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. You can also find him on his TV show “Avec Eric”, on numerous appearances as a guest judge on Top Chef, traveling the world with his sidekick Anthony Bourdain or in one of his four cookbooks. The list of accomplishments never ends.

I had the honor to have him as a very special guest chef in my kitchen this week for a private party. So I made myself very small, helped out and tried to learn some tricks from the master himself. I didn’t have much time to take pictures and most of the dishes pictured below are unfinished but you’ll get a little glimpse of what’s going on in the kitchen.

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Black Truffle Sponge Cake

A few weeks ago, Tina of Wandering Eater talked about an advanced copy of Pierre Hermé new book “Pastries” she received. I didn’t even know that Pierre Hermé was coming out with a new book so, my curiosity spiked, I begged to get a glimpse of it. After failing to get a preview copy from the publisher (hello, popular item!) she kindly emailed me a few recipes from the book and one of them was a “Biscuit à la truffe noire” that looked so amazing that within minutes I was on the phone with the truffle black market to try to secure one of those so-called black diamonds. All in the name of a Pierre Hermé recipe.

Now, as you probably know black truffles are very expensive and even more so this year because of the deep freeze in Europe. Perigord truffles have suffered from the cold temperatures so I settled for one from Provence with the deep aromas of the region. A whiff of it is like traveling without moving. Amazing. Now, for full disclosure I didn’t use the whole amount called for in the recipe. My plan is to make three recipes out of ONE truffle. Yes, I’m cheap that way.

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