They're called verrines. You haven't heard of them? Well, most American chefs haven't, either. A verrine is an appetizer or dessert that consists of a number of components layered artfully in a small glass. (The word verrine refers to the glass itself; literally it means "protective glass.")
Intriguingly composed, they're a study in textures, flavors, colors and temperatures. A beautiful glass might be filled with a layer of mushroom flan, sautéed wild mushrooms, a julienne of prosciutto, parsley gelée, wild mushroom emulsion and topped with a potato and prosciutto galette. Another will have clementine and mint syrup, fresh clementines and a gingerbread "crumble."
Van Peteghem says he started creating original verrines at Sensing four months ago, serving some in delicate glasses with inclined bases "like the Leaning Tower of Pisa."
"There is no limit to the number of layers, but I like to work with just a few to respect the identity of each flavor," Van Peteghem says. "The customer should always be able to recognize and know the difference between the layers. Odd numbers look better as a composition."
Total time: About 2 hours, including prep time
Servings: 6 appetizer portions
Note: From Damien Dulas, executive chef of Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas. This recipe requires six glasses, about 4 1/2 inches high and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
1 head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 cups heavy cream, or quantity sufficient to cover
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely diced ( 1/8 -inch) watermelon radish
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely diced ( 1/8 -inch) jicama
1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons best-quality olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1/2 cup chopped brioche (about 1/4 -inch pieces)
1 1/2 teaspoons clarified butter
2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup finely chopped cauliflower
1/2 teaspoon minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon minced chives
1/2 teaspoon minced chervil
3 1/2 ounces mizuna (about 4 1/2 cups loosely packed)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1. Place the 1-inch cauliflower pieces in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, cover with the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, season with one-fourth teaspoon salt and cover the pot. Cook until soft, about 15 minutes, paying attention not to scorch the bottom. Strain the excess liquid and purée the cooked cauliflower in a food processor. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer and adjust seasoning with three-fourths teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon white pepper, or to taste. Set aside.
2. In two small bowls, separately toss the watermelon radish and jicama each with one-half teaspoon olive oil, one-fourth teaspoon lime juice, one-fourth teaspoon lime zest and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
3. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. For the crumble, toss the brioche with the clarified butter in a bowl. Spread the brioche on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or Silpat and toast until lightly golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Place the brioche onpaper towels and allow to cool. Place the chopped hazelnuts on a lined sheet pan and toast until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Cool. Combine the toasted brioche, finely chopped cauliflower, minced parsley, chives and chervil, and the hazelnuts. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, one-eighth teaspoon salt and a tiny pinch of white pepper, or to taste.
4. For the mizuna emulsion, first blanch the mizuna in a saucepan of salted boiling water, just long enough to bring out the color. Strain and shock in an ice bath. Strain again, and purée the mizuna in a blender or food processor. Pass the purée through a fine-mesh strainer. Add the vegetable stock to the purée. Season with a pinch of salt. Just before serving, emulsify the purée in a blender or using an immersion blender with 1 tablespoon olive oil to incorporate until light and frothy.
5. Place about one-fourth cup cauliflower purée in each of six glasses. Top with 1 1/2 tablespoons each of the dressed watermelon radish and jicama. Cover with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the crumble. Finish with a few tablespoons of froth from the mizuna emulsion. (There will be extra mizuna emulsion.) Serve immediately.
Each serving: 196 calories; 4 grams protein; 12 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 16 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 45 mg. cholesterol; 116 mg. sodium.
Red, white and green verrine
Total time: About 35 minutes, plus up to 4 1/2 hours roasting time
Note: From test kitchen director Donna Deane. Burrata is available at Bristol Farms and Whole Foods stores and Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica.
6 Roma tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons grated
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 paper-thin slices prosciutto
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons burrata cheese
Cracked black pepper
Fleur de sel
1. Heat the oven to 225 degrees. Cut the Roma tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them cut-side up on a rack set on a baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over them. Sprinkle with one-half teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
2. Roast the tomatoes for 4 to 4 1/2 hours, until they are very tender and begin to collapse and show some browning. Remove from the oven and let cool, then coarsely chop. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Stir in the balsamic vinegar.
3. Using a mortar and pestle, work the garlic and one-fourth teaspoon salt into a fine paste. Grind in the pine nuts and basil until a smooth paste begins to form. Slowly drizzle in one-fourth cup of olive oil, then work in the Parmigiano cheese, mixing to combine. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and adjust seasoning if necessary.
4. Add olive oil to a large skillet until the oil fills the pan to about one-fourth inch deep. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and when the oil is hot but not smoking, add the prosciutto slices; they should sizzle lightly. Cook until nearly crisp, 4 to 4 1/2 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and let cool before breaking into 6 shard-like pieces for garnishing the verrines.
5. For assembly, spoon about one-third cup roasted tomatoes into each of six glasses, about 3 1/2 inches high by 3 inches in diameter.
6. Spoon a generous 2 tablespoons of burrata cheese over tomatoes to make an even layer in each of the glasses. Top with about 1 tablespoon pesto in each glass, spreading it to the sides of the glass. Spoon 1 tablespoon burrata into the center of each glass, leaving an edge of the green pesto showing. Drizzle a little olive oil over the burrata and sprinkle cracked pepper and fleur de sel. Top each glass with a shard of prosciutto.
Each serving: 330 calories; 13 grams protein; 5 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 29 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 48 mg. cholesterol; 584 mg. sodium.
Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, plus 2 hours soaking time for the tapioca pearls
Note: Adapted from "ph10 Pâtisserie Pierre Hermé." Sarawak pepper is available at Le Sanctuaire in Santa Monica and online at http://www.lepicerie.com . You can substitute other high-quality black pepper. Coconut purée (such as Boiron brand) and pistachio paste are available at Surfas in Culver City and Nicole's in South Pasadena, as well as at http://www.lepicerie.com . This recipe requires glasses about 3 inches high and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Reserve extra almond tuiles for another use.
3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg white
2 1/2 tablespoons flour, sifted
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan over medium heat, toast the sliced almonds until golden brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
2. In a food processor, grind the almonds and half the sugar to a coarse consistency, pulsing for about 25 seconds.
3. In an electric mixer, cream the butter with the remaining sugar until well incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the salt, cream and ground almond mixture. Mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg white and mix well. Add the flour and mix until incorporated.
4. Make a template by tracing a 3-inch round cookie cutter onto a thin piece of cardboard. Cut out the circle and trim the rest of the cardboard to within 1 inch around the hole.
5. Place the template on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Spoon 1 rounded teaspoon of batter into the template. Using an offset spatula, smooth the batter as evenly as possible in the template. Space the tuiles several inches apart.
6. Bake for about 6 to 8 minutes, rotating once, until the tuiles are dark golden brown around the edges and golden in the center. They will not brown evenly. Watch carefully during the final minute because they burn easily. Let cool completely on the Silpat, then gently lift the cookies off the baking sheet. Makes 20 tuiles.
Pistachio crème brûlée
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 teaspoons pistachio paste
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with half of the sugar until incorporated and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, boil the milk and cream with the rest of the sugar and the pistachio paste until the sugar and the pistachio paste have dissolved, about 2 minutes. Whisking, add in the egg yolk mixture until incorporated.
2. Strain the pistachio crème mixture through a chinois or fine-mesh sieve. Fill each of 6 glasses with one-fourth cup of pistachio crème. Place the glasses in a 9-inch-square pan and fill with simmering water to the top of the custard in the glasses. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. The texture, when the crème comes out of the oven, should be just set (not firm). Let cool in the water bath to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
Coconut and tapioca 'jus'
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons small-pearl tapioca
1 sheet gelatin
2/3 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup coconut purée
1. In a small bowl, soak the tapioca in cold water for 2 hours. Drain the tapioca into a fine-mash strainer and rinse with cold water. Drain well.
2. Soak the gelatin sheet for 20 minutes in cold water. In a saucepan, heat the milk with the sugar and the orange zest. When it comes to a boil, add the tapioca and cook 35 minutes over low heat.
3. In a separate saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Drain the softened gelatin and incorporate it into the milk-sugar mixture, then mix in the coconut purée and the boiled cream. Remove from the heat and chill in an ice bath until thickened to a pudding consistency, about 10 minutes.
Pineapple and assembly
1 cup cubed fresh pineapple (cut into 1/4 -inch dice and drained of juice)
1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest
5 cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Pinch of black freshly ground Sarawak pepper
1 tablespoon mango (or apricot or pineapple) jam, melted
1. In a small bowl, mix the cubed pineapple with the zest, the finely chopped cilantro and the black pepper; mix them gently. Add the melted mango jam and toss gently. You should do this just before assembly so the fruit is just dressed, not macerated.
2. Carefully trim an almond tuile with kitchen scissors to fit the glass, then place the tuile on top of the pistachio crème. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the pineapple mixture on top of the tuile. Then place another tuile atop the pineapple mixture. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the coconut tapioca onto the tuile. Garnish with an edible flower, such as a violet or pansy. Serve immediately.
Each serving: 465 calories; 8 grams protein; 46 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 29 grams fat; 16 grams saturated fat; 200 mg. cholesterol; 116 mg. sodium.