So it turns out that a two-part series on homemade kimchi is not nearly as popular as writing about where to eat during Art Basel week. This does not come as a surprise to me. And yet here I am, persisting in writing about my humble efforts to dispose of my weekly CSA share yet again. (If the truth must be known, I'm also still only on Round 1 of my visits to several of the new places to open recently in Miami - including DB Bistro Moderne, Vino e Olio, Wynwood Kitchen & Bar - and am filibustering some here).
Week 2 brought an unusual assortment of goodies: yuca, roselle (a/k/a hibiscus or Jamaican sorrel), lemongrass, callaloo, green onions, eggplant, avocado. Once again, I set out to come up with a dish that would use up at least a few of the components at once. What I wound up with was a very unorthodox latke:
What exactly is that? Well, it will require some explanation.
The roselle and lemongrass were the starting point, as I steeped them along with some fresh ginger to make a tea (which is exactly what I did with the roselle last year). OK, now what? Well, one of the things I'd hoped for in doing this was that the CSA would be an inspration to do more playing around in the kitchen, including with techniques that I've eaten but not necessarily cooked before (like last year's Adrià-inspired canistel microwave cake). So it was time to bring out the "chemistry set."
Plus, it was Hannukah, so I was thinking of latkes, only maybe using that yuca instead of the traditional potato pancake. And then, what's good on top of a latke? Well, applesauce and sour cream. But also, caviar. So why not make some caviar out of that tea I just made, and then put it on top of a yuca latke? The hibiscus/lemongrass tea has some tartness and fruitiness like applesauce, right?
I'm not saying these are all good ideas. I'm just explaining the thought process.
First I boiled the yuca for about 10 minutes, until it was fork-tender. I pulled it out of the water and when it was cool enough to handle, split the roots down the middle and pulled out the fibrous, stringy bit that runs down the middle. I then attempted to grate them on a box grater, which did not quite work out as planned: the yuca had gone so soft that it basically turned to mush when I tried to run it through the grater. Unfazed, I took that mush, seasoned it with salt and pepper, added a couple eggs and a little flour to bind it, and mixed them together. I then formed these into fritters, which I pan-fried till browned on the outside.
Now it was time to play. I reduced down by half some of the hibiscus tea and sweetened it with some honey (probably should have reduced it down and concentrated the flavor even more). Then I added 1g of sodium alginate to 200ml of the tea, mixed it well and let it sit in the fridge for a half-hour. Meanwhile, I added 5g of calcium chloride to 500ml of water so the magic could happen.
The magic? For those not familiar, what's going on here is called spherification. The sodium alginate and the calcium chloride react with each other to form a gel, so that when drops of a liquid containing the alginate are placed into the calcium chloride solution, after a few seconds a gelled exterior forms around the still-liquid center of the drop. Here was my setup:
On the left, the hibiscus tea with the alginate; in the center, the calcium chloride bath; at the top, a container of clean water to rinse and hold the spheres after they formed. And here is the end result:
So I took my yuca latkes (warmed in the toaster oven), topped them with a shmear of thick Mexican crema, then a dollop of the hibiscus caviar, and finally a sprinkling of Alaea Hawaiian sea salt. And what you get is this:
It actually wasn't nearly as bad as I'd anticipated: the yuca cakes had a fluffy, creamy interior offset by a crispy exterior, and the caviar actually retained the delicate, floral, lightly spicy notes of the tea, with an intriguing jellied texture and a little liquid burst. But in all candor, they were nowhere near as delicious as an old-fashioned latke with applesauce and sour cream, or one topped with a dollop of real-deal caviar for that matter. I'll readily admit: this was more fun to make than it was delicious to eat.