3rd Course: "Almond"
* Best of 2006 * Dish
Read about this dish and the other 25 Best Dishes of 2006 on my blog.
This photo is featured in the January, 2007 issue of Popular Photography.
Slices of smoked chicken and boquerones (white Spanish anchovies) string along with skinned grape halves, dices of cucumber, celery leaves, crispy fried brioche crumbles and toasted Marcona almonds. This gorgeous medley is then topped with a cool Marcona almond "gazpacho" thickened with day-old bread and spiked with sherry vinegar.
Notes: This was an absolute show-stopper. Literally. My guest and I took pause throughout the eating of this course just to savor and enjoy each bite. We knew we were experiencing something very unique and special - a precursor to the modern gazpacho (Spanish "ajo blanco").
Of course, this is visually stunning - but the composition itself is out-done by the combinations. This was like the French "a la Veronique" style of cooking with the grape halves. However, there was no vermouth that I detected.
To let demonstrate how much I loved this course, I'll admit to you that I forgot to take a picture of the dish after it had been sauced with the Marcona almond "gazpacho." The gazpacho was brilliant - a tangy sherry vinegar-spiked soup made of crushed almonds and thickened by day-old bread soaked in water. The soup was at once fine and smooth and hearty and thick. It was creamy, yet clean and bright. It was really great - especially with the party swimming inside.
Texturally, the fried brioche crumbles were awesome - they, and the toasted Marcona almonds, added bits of crunch that played nicely against the silky grapes and slippery anchovy filets.
The chicken was the least compelling part of the dish. The meat had been smoked, but that was barely detectable - especially behind and admist all the other bold flavors and textures.
Overall, this was one of the finest creations I've had in a long time. Truly outstanding. Something similar or very similar to a recipe by Feran Adria/Arzak (?) that I've seen.