Beets: you either love them or hate them. The once-forgotten root vegetable went through a renaissance at the start of this decade, eventually showing up everywhere from trendy hotspots to fine dining institutions. But, by now they are kind of played out. I mean, how many times can you eat a beet and goat cheese salad? Nevertheless, a lot of people still love them, and when I found out that a couple who were coming over for dinner fell into that camp, I decided to dust off an oldie-but-goodie from the first Eleven Madison Park Cookbook.
While the flavors in this dish are pretty straightforward: beets, caraway, and goat cheese, its execution is anything but. This project takes a while to complete, and since it was part of a larger six-course meal, I began preparations a couple days beforehand with the caraway crumble. This is essentially a buttery, flaky caraway cookie that gets ground into a fine powder.
Another component featuring caraway is a tuile (pronounced tweel). Chef Humm loves using these ultra-thin crispy crackers throughout his repertoire, and this one was a bit tricky for me. You have to use stencils or ring molds to shape the batter into perfect circles, while spreading it thinly and evenly enough so that the results are nice and crispy. It’s not an easy task. I ended up with tuiles that were far thicker than intended, and a bit tough.
The night before our guests arrived, I baked the beets. A trick here is to look for loose beets, as opposed to bunches, so that you can pick ones that are approximately the same size. Otherwise they won’t cook evenly. Now, the recipe says the beets are done when they are pierced easily with a knife. But, why potentially ruin the beets’ integrity by cutting them with a knife? A bit of advice: invest in a cake tester. They are well worth the $2.
The next day, I took the beets out of the fridge and peeled them. Another bit of advice: wear gloves. My hands were red for nearly two days.
The day of the dinner, I went to work on the goat cheese mousse. This was pretty simple to prepare: you just mix together sheep’s milk yogurt, chevre, skim milk, cream, and lime juice, and then pour it into a siphon, AKA whip cream dispenser. When I first started making these types of foams, I frequently had trouble getting them to dispense properly. I eventually figured out that the key is to give the container a few good shakes and always hold it at an 180 degree angle.
It’s not unusual for cooks to buy gadgets and devices they will almost never use. In fact, it’s probably pretty common. However, I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I actually use every piece of kitchen equipment I own on somewhat of a regular basis. This is true for every piece of kitchen equipment except one. My juicer.
I bought my juicer, not because I want to be healthy and make smoothies, but because once in a while (not very often), a recipe calls for an obscure juice you can’t buy freshly made, such as granny smith. So, when I saw that this recipe calls for fresh beet juice, I was quite excited to put the juicer to work. I reduced my beet juice by half, and then steeped in some black peppercorns and caraway. The recipe calls for fresh raspberries to be muddled in along with some red wine vinegar, but I had this amazing raspberry vinegar left over from the Eleven Madison duck ju, so I used that instead. The vinaigrette was superb.
With all of this done, the only thing left to do was plate. I omitted the dill blossoms because they are nearly impossible to find, and I’m not crazy about the way they taste, anyway. Even without them, the dish looked beautiful, and a couple people asked for seconds. I probably will not wait so long to make this dish again.