Does every dish need a sauce, emulsion, foam, vinaigrette, reduction, syrup, essence? Sure there are plenty of other words we could use for the seemingly integral element to many if not all dishes, though my list gets to the point. What it fails to question is the visibility of this element. What if the elements of a dish were flavored with or marinated in a sauce, vinaigrette etc. and then removed from it during the final preparation of a the dish? No, this is not a ground breaking thought. Well, it is.
Several days ago we braised some hearts of palm in a broth made with Salers cheese and dijon mustard. We let the vegetable cool in the flavorful broth and when we were ready to assemble the dish we removed the hearts of palm and sliced them into rounds. The hearts flavor had married with the cheese and mustard. While I contemplated making a sabayon from this broth we felt the use of it in a simple dish would detract from the hearts of palm rather than enhance them.
We were pairing the hearts of palm with porcini mushrooms: raw and cooked. For the cooked element we pan roasted the mushroom in butter and seasoned it with salt. For the raw, we finely sliced some mushrooms and marinated them in a lime juice and walnut oil vinaigrette. Finally, we integrated fat into the dish. To top the marinated mushroom we used Japanese eel. To top the crisp hearts of palm we used pounded avocado. The avocado and the eel bring quite similar elements of fat and richness to the table while being quite different ingredients. We seasoned the eel with some young watercress and left the hearts of palm without spice for they had picked up elements of the Dijon mustard in the cooking process.
As we assembled the dish I began second guessing myself, looking for sauce. Aki, being Aki and the voice of reason, detailed the above explanation and noted as we ate the dish that the sauces were integrated into just not visually apparent in the dish. And for the record, she was right...again.