One of the things that drives me crazy about dining out these days is the need to make things complicated. A great dish has a range of textures and flavors incorporated in it so that each bite is a little different from the one before, and the diners' palate doesn't become sated and indifferent. There are several different ways to achieve this layered effect in a dish. One of my favorite ways is to take several simple, focused layers and combine them to create a kaleidoscopic effect.
For example, tonight's dessert is a freeze dried strawberry cake served with white chocolate mousse, macerated strawberries and a green tea croquante. This sounds complicated but is actually comprised of several simple layers of different elements. For example, the cake is a play off of the original 1-2-3-4 cake, slightly reducing the sugar, bumping the butter, substituting Greek yogurt for milk and folding crushed, freeze dried strawberries into the batter at the very end. We found some amazingly fragrant strawberries at Citarella which we will clean and macerate with a touch of salt and lime juice right before service so they are still firm, delicate, slightly acidic and bursting with juice. The white chocolate mousse may be more accurately described as a white chocolate whipped cream as it is made up of only white chocolate, heavy cream and a pinch of salt. Finally we have the green tea croquant. We started with an amber caramel and tipped in coarsely chopped Marcona almonds. We spread the caramel-nut mixture onto a buttered pan and dusted the entire surface with green tea powder. This will be pulverized to a sandy texture for the final element on the plate.
For me, this dessert is a nice return to the basics. Sometimes when we play with gums and gels and various new and enticing techniques things get a bit muddled. Every so often it's good to remind ourselves that while it's important to stretch our horizons and try new things, sometimes a few simple techniques can be used to create something close to perfection.
White Chocolate Mousse
2 cups heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
6 ounces white chocolate
Melt chocolate and set aside. Whip cream with salt to soft peak, temper in chocolate and whip to desired texture. Chill for two hours before using.