The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Stuffed Zucchini Bowls with 
Cherry-Chocolate Gastrique
This is Part One of a Three Part series ~ Classic Sauces with a Twist
Gastrique, if you are not familiar is a reduction sauce... This particular sauce is unique from many other reductions as it is starts by caramelizing sugar for the thickening agent. Gastrique (try saying with a French accent, sounds better :) typically has sugar, vinegar, wine and fruit...however there are variations to be found. It is a classic French sauce that utilizes the technique of reduction, and a reduction is just basically boiling a liquid until it thickens. What is more commonly called "A reduction sauce", usually starts with drippings from meat, fish or even vegetables. So for many the term "reduction sauce" is a specific sauce rather than a process. It is indeed actually a process by which sauces are named...Depending on the varied ingredients, a reduction would be reducing the amount of fluid by at least a third. Now there are many Chefs in this big beautiful world of ours, and depending on training as well as whom they were trained by will have variations. So please take note that this information is based on my personal knowledge and should be considered as such.

So a bit about this process now...I must give a couple of tips/warnings here. If you are not familiar with caramelizing of sugar and/or reductions with alcohol, please take note here...Use a deep pan for one, second make absolutely sure that you do not use this process with or near any children. *Note, caramelized sugar can cause severe burns, and when adding a flammable liquid such as alcohol please take extra precaution. The directions provided will assist you with these cautions, but please use your own judgment as well. Now I am not trying to scare anyone away from this sauce, it is quite delightful...And other than the attention required, quite easy.

What you will need:
A quick note about my cheese choice here... Truffle Noir , this is a beautiful Gouda cheese with a soft creamy flavor. There is a bit of nuttiness and works most beautifully with dishes that have intense flavor components. The black truffle flavoring comes off subtly but noticeably, and is quite lovely on its own :)

For the zucchini
4-6 round zucchini, hollowed
3 cups langoustine, par boiled
1 cup wild rice
4 cups vegetable broth,or water for rice
1 small bunch fresh sage, coarsely chopped
3/4th cup oyster mushrooms, chopped
1/8th pound truffle noir, or other cheese
4-6 Large whole basil leaves, one per bowl
1 small bunch fresh sage (for rice)
Butter and oil to sauté langoustine
1 or more pinches of each, depending on preference
Cayenne Pepper
Beau Monde
Fleur de Sel

For the gastrique
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cherries, fresh or canned
1/3 cup cherry balsamic vinegar
1.5 ounces semi sweet cocoa
(again the higher grade the better)
3/4th to 1 cup champagne, or dry sparkling wine
(Note: Start with 3/4th cup and add more to thin if needed for consistency)

Let's get cooking:

For the zucchini 
Prepare your wild rice, 3 to 1 ratio. Bring to a boil your broth or water, add rinsed wild rice and sage, reduce heat. Cover and simmer approximately 40 minutes, until fluffed and tender. Now in a pan add equal parts butter and olive oil (depending on size of sauté pan about tablespoon each). Add desired amount of seasonings and sauté par-boiled langoustine until just warmed and coated. Now add your rice and chopped mushrooms. Fold these together until incorporated.
Carve out the inside of your zucchini, leaving enough of a rim to allow for textured. Tuck a whole basil leaf into each of you carved zucchini, then stuff with your rice mixture. Top with sliced cheese and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees (f) until cheese is bubbling and browned, about 20 minutes.

For the gastrique
Place sugar in a large deep sauce pan, adding just enough water to cover sugar. (Note: You can do a dry caramelize if you prefer and are comfortable with it). Oh a high heat bring to a rapid boil, continue to boil until you have reached desired color (the darker the caramel the less sweet). Stir frequently during this process to insure that it is an evenly caramelized. At this point remove from heat and add your cherries, fold until evenly coated. You can now return your pan to the flame and very slowly begin to add your vinegar. Continue to stir this mixture until it begins to reduce to about 1/3, being careful not to allow it to boil over. If the boiling point ever becomes to high, just lift the pan off of the heat for a moment and then return.
Now remove the pan from the heat again to add your wine and cocoa. Return to heat and continue to stir until the mixture is incorporated. Continue to reduce until your sauce is just thick enough to create a film on your spoon without dripping off. If the sauce becomes too thick remove from heat and add a bit more liquid.
Side Note: I like this sauce to be a little bit thicker so I place the sauce in a bowl over heated water to keep it warm. As we are using caramelized sugar and chocolate it can harden a bit when cooled...Now prepare your plate, I served with fresh garden mini tomatoes...and drizzle your gastrique as desired :)


P.S. This dish is being entered into The Festive Rice Event
On Torview 

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