One of the joys of my job is the weekend market menu. This 3 course menu centers around ingredients found at the local farmers markets, highlighting local producers and the best they have to offer. The best part being that the third course is dessert.
I have allways found that I am more creative when a few restrictions are set up. I like to work within some structure. So having to work with what I find at the market is a lot of fun for me.
And I have to say that the fruit, honey, yogurt, and nuts that I have seen are amazing. The farmers often bring them in themselves, having had a relationship with the restaurant for years. And they bring us their pride and joy. I was often told at Lampreia that when a chef was truly passionate you could feel or see their own energy coming out of their plates. When you pour that much of yourself into what you do, it resonates from your creations. This is true of Scott Carsberg's work and true of the small producers too. The food they bring resonates with the pride they created it with.
For the menu this week I got to use plums from James's (The other half of Eva) garden. He didn't think that his yard was certified organic, but assured me that they were grown without the use of pesticides and with an all natural fertilizer provided by Hadley, their dog. They have a really amazing deep flavor, but no texture. Really just sweet juicy pulp under a tart skin. So clearly I was going to have to puree them. So to feature them on the menu I made a plum caramel. I couldnt believe how great the flavor was. Using a caramel to sweeten the plum puree instead of sugar added a deep, luxurious, rich flavor. And it made a vibrant, glossy color.
The caramel was flanked by four mounds of mousse I made out of a goats milk yogurt from the farmers market that was sweetened with some of the plum caramel and stiffened with a little home made creme friache (which is allways thicker than the store bought variety). This proved to be a challenge as the goats milk yogurt is very runny on its own. The color was a pale rose and very striking against the deep translucent plum caramel. Then I hid each mound from the caramel with super thin leaves made out of honey tuilles. They added a crisp texture, a golden color, and a sharp contrasting shape to the softness of the mousse and sauce.
The best thing about the market menu is that I am guarenteed an audience. So I can push the limits just a touch. And i get to do this each week!! How much fun is that!!
So, if anyone has a plum tree out back and you can't figure out what to do with all those plums, I HIGHLY recomend this plum caramel. Put it on icecream, inside german pancakes, on french toast, mix it with yogurt...... I based this off a recipe from Alice Waters. I changed the ratios to accomodate the taste of the plums I was using and to achieve the flavor profile I wanted.
1 pound plums
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup water
1. Cut the plums in half and remove the stones.
2. Cook the plums in their own juice for 10 minutes or untill they are tender. If there isnt enough juice, add a little water.
3. Let the plums cool, and puree them with the cooking liquid. Pass through a fine mesh strainer. 4. Make the caramel. Combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook untill caramelized.
5. Remove the caramel from heat and add 1/3 cup water. STAND BACK. this splatters much more than adding cream. When you can get close, stir the caramel untill even.
6. Return to the heat and stir in the plum puree. The caramel will clump up on the bottom, so bring it back up to temperature and stir to disolve the chunks. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.