Sometimes inspiration can arrive by email. Raspil sent us this link to her roasted blueberry sorbet which looked fabulous and made me think about berries en papillote. It's a technique that we've played around with in the past because it intensifies the flavor of the berries and is a great way to utilize fruit that looks less than beautiful but still tastes yummy. One of the few berries we haven't roasted in the past is the raspberry. There is something about the beauty and seeming fragility about that particular fruit which beguiles you into serving it relatively unadorned. There's nothing like a handful of fresh, juicy berries slowly savored with nothing to accompany them but the sun on your face and the quiet company of a good friend. Like snowflakes, each berry is slightly different with varying levels of sweet and tart, textures shading from slightly firm beneath your teeth to practically melting on tongue, comprised of small rounded cells of slightly furry essence of berry. As I child I would attempt to pull apart each section intact and eat each one separately. I was rarely successful but I always enjoyed the challenge.
Since I happened to have some raspberries in the walk-in that morning I decided to roast them off and see what happened. I was thinking more savory than sweet, hoping to utilize the bit of pectin in the berries to make something fun for our guests to enjoy. I followed my nose to the spice drawer and added half a cinnamon stick, one crushed pod of green cardamom, two blades of mace, part of a kola nut, butter, a small scattering of raw sugar and a pinch of salt to the berries. I sealed this up in foil and cooked it on the grill until the berries softened and began to release their juices.
The final product was pureed with a little bit of agave for balance, I had some tart berries that particular day. I strained it after blending to remove any large particles of leftover spices. The finished product had a lovely viscosity and was bursting with rich, deep flavor and spice. We served the puree warm with Loup de Mer broiled in smoked butter and charred green onions. The crispy skin and delicately smoky flesh of the fish were highlighted against the smooth texture of the slightly sweet and acidic raspberry and the green onions added both texture and an earthy flavor with faintly bitter undertones to round out the dish. It all began with a single email from another chef. It just illustrates the fact that inspiration is all around us and probably closer than you think.