The other morning when I got to work I put two pots of milk on the stove with a pinch of salt. When they reached a boil I threw dried chipotles into one, bay leaves into the other, covered them and set them aside to infuse. The theory was that by the time they were ready to use I would think of something to do with them.
I strained the chipotle milk first because I knew from past experience that the longer I left them in there, the stronger the flavor would be. I definitely wanted it to be smoky, earthy and peppery, but not overly spicy. We needed a chocolate dessert for a special request and Alex watched me straining the chipotles and suggested tapioca. I liked it, so I soaked some small pearl tapioca in the chipotle milk and then cooked it with brown sugar. When the pudding was done I folded in some Valrohna Caribe chocolate. In the past, all of the chile/chocolate combinations that we had tasted were long on chocolate, short on chile, so we were looking for something a bit more balanced. I chose the Caribe because it has fruity, smoky undertones very similar to those of chipotle peppers and I thought that they would marry well. For service, we folded whipped cream into the pudding to lighten it. We served the tapioca with chocolate cookie crumbs and toasted almond wafers.
We had just received a delivery of French Cantaloupes and their fragrance was wafting through the walk-in. We cooked some down with a half bottle of 1990 Suduiraut Sauternes to make a beautiful confiture and as I stood in the cooler inhaling the honeyed perfume of the remainder, I thought of my bay leaf infusion.
One of our many kitchen toys is a Paco Jet. It's used to make ice creams and mousses. It comes with canisters that you fill with your base. The bases then have to be frozen for 24 hours before you can put it into the Paco Jet. The machine has a blade that finely shaves your base into the texture of the smoothest, creamiest ice cream. Many restaurants use them to make ice cream to order. We use ours for ice creams, sorbets, herb purees, vegetable mousses and anything else we can think of.
So, that morning I wondered what would happen if I put chunks of melon into the Paco Jet container with a bay leaf anglaise and paco-tized it. Once I had the thought there was no turning back, I made a loose anglaise with my bay leaf infusion and poured it over chunks of melon. I froze it and a day later I buzzed it and the end result was heaven on a spoon. Savoring it was a true taste of summertime, creamy and soft on the palate, cantaloupes and cream in a way that I had never tasted them before. We served it very simply with a melon soup and tiny mint blossoms. Two different infusions became two very different dishes, but fortunately our guests enjoyed them both.