Monday, May 25, 2015

Does it Get Any More Pretentious Than Mussel Air?

A few weeks ago, I got a hold of a sample of Roland's Mussel Powder.  That's not a mispelling.  It's not WeightGainer3000, and as far as I know, you can't purchase it at GNC.  What it is, is delicious briny, oceanic powder, made from ground up Danish Blue Mussels.  They're Danish because they're harvested from the Linfjord in Denmark, not because of any bivalvular allegiance to the Royal Danish Court (at least, none that I am aware of).  Anyway, I thought this was cool stuff, and smuggled a jar of the powder in my luggage on the way home from Texas.

What I didn't know, is what exactly to do with it.  It didn't have instructions, or suggested uses, or even a ratio that might be helpful.  Let me say, it is powerful stuff.  A broth made from the powder smells of the ocean, slightly briny, slightly funky, and full of umami.  It seemed like a little would go a long way.  I thought it would be great as an air.  Lighter and less dense then a foam, but just enough that you get that hit of the sea.  Now I just had to think what to pair it with.

A full dish seemed too much, for a component so pretentious as mussel air, but I thought it would pair well with scallop.  The sweet, clean scallop flavor with just an ethereal hit of the sea.  So I built a dish from there.  If you throw some high-falutin component like mussel air on your dish, you have to back it up.  So I went through a flavor bouncing exercise, pairing each component with the next so that, in theory anyway, they'd all play well together on the plate.

Sweet clean butternut puree, offset by a second puree of caramelized carrots - still sweet, but a deeper and earthier flavor.  A bitter note from a burnt scallion, with a dash of champagne vinegar to liven it up.  Cured orange peel, to brighten the other flavors and carry just a slight citrus flavor.  Tarragon and basil flowers to for a anise note and floral nose.  I was going to pair with a thin slice of porkbelly, but that seemed like it could overwhelm the other flavors, so I settled for a chip of crispy pancetta  to deliver some saltiness and texture.  On top of the scallop, a dab of coffee butter, because I love how it marries with the scallop flavor and enhances the richness.  And finally, serve it in a billow of smoke, fleeting, not overpowering.

Original Plating stained

In case you're not counting (what's wrong with you?), that's ten components in addition to the scallop.  Strong affinities between many of the components - carrots and coffee, squash and pancetta, orange and tarragon, etc., and nothing seemed to really clash.  Scallop. 10 Accoutrements...Good to go.

I had to think about how to capture the smoke.  I didn't want to enclose the dish with the smoke for any length of time, so I thought about a Roca dish where the smoke is below the dish with just wisps being released at a time.  I didn't have the serviceware to pull that off, but a mason jar seemed suitable, if not quite living up to the extravagance promised by the mussel air.  I punched three small holes in the lid to let the smoke slowly wisp out from below. 

Capturing Smoke
Plated Over Smoke

And the mussel air was delicious.

Adding the mussel air
Scallop. 10 Accoutrements
Scallop. 10 Accoutrements (alternate view)

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