I have wanted to enjoy licorice. No, not the red stuff long or short, eaten on the go are gnawed on at the movie theater. I wanted to like black licorice. It is exotic, eaten by those who are mysterious or know something different. Chefs have cooked with licorice for a number of years, using it with sweetbreads and salmon and many dishes in between. And I have balked at the notion of integrating this mysterious yet common place ingredient into our cooking. I think part of my own hesitation is that I have not truly liked black licorice in the past. Its flavor is assertive and bracing and the texture keeps it on the palate far to long. So, I began having licorice thoughts. I wanted a simple sauce that captured the bracing nature of licorice, that did not hide the fact that it is intense, but also had balance and could share the spotlight on the palate. I did nothing special, in retrospect I think I borrowed from visual cues like black Sambuca and Jagermeister. I took ruby port, salt and black licorice and slowly melted them together to make a silky viscous sauce. When the licorice was melted, I strained the sauce and let it chill. The sauce is intense with the bracing notes of licorice though the fruity undertones of the port with a touch of spice balance the combined ingredients. Once the sauce was cold I noticed it had a pudding like consistency, something for the future.
At this moment, I took some of the licorice sauce and dried it out to make a crisp to be a textural counterpoint to the smooth sauce. My first exploits with the crisp took place on the day I forgot to use my notebook. Anyway, the crisps worked out well and provided the opposition I was looking for in using the licorice sauce. The dish which featured the licorice-port sauce included honeydew melon, Key West pink shrimp, poblano peppers, ramps and a touch of green goddess dressing. The herbal notes of the dressing were emphasized by the licorice sauce and crisp.
It just took some time to work through a means of integrating and enjoying licorice.