shrimp and grits, lobster rolls, or cheeseburgers. If I could design every meal to feature three or more hors d'oeuvres paired with tasty wine or a specialty cocktail, and perhaps a seasonal salad, I definitely would! Alas, I don't live a life of perpetual cocktailing largely due to the time that is required for fancy little bites of food. On the weekends, though, I am afforded the luxury of devoting hours to preparing each perfect little component of the recipes I've selected, and then sharing the creations with friends.
Salmon tartare cornets are a perfect example. These are not hard to make, but they do require some patience. The batter for the cornets is whipped up in a food processor, which is easy enough. Then, you must spread the batter into circles on a silicon baking mat. I highly recommend creating a stencil for this step. I created my own from an inexpensive flexible cutting board that I cut four uniform circles out of. Once the batter has been evenly spread, you bake the cornets for 4 minutes until they are set. Here is the semi-tricky step: while the cornets are hot you must flip them over and roll them into cones using tuile molds or something similar. Do this right on the door of the oven. Yes, the cornets are hot. Yes, it requires a steady hand. Yes, you might accidentally tear one. Persist! Bake the cornets for 4 minutes longer, remove from the baking mat, and let completely cool on paper towels. You repeat the process until you are out of batter.
crème fraîche with finely diced red onion. Season everything. Snip a few fresh chives for garnish.
crème fraîche into the cone, top with the chopped salmon and sprinkle with a few chives. I served the cornets in shot glasses, two per, though there are a number of palettes and other fancy serving devices you are welcome to invest in. These are special little bites, and will be put in the rotation of favorite hors d'oeuvres. Yes, they take a little extra time, but most of the extraordinary things in life do.
Salmon Cornets (from the French Laundry Cookbook)
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
2 large egg whites, cold
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
(makes about 3/4 cup)
4 ounces salmon fillet (belly preferred), skin and any pin bones removed and very finely minced
3/4 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon finely minced chives
1 1/2 teaspoon finely minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
small pinch of freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
Sweet Red Onion Creme Fraiche
1 tablespoon finely minced red onions
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
freshly ground white pepper to taste
Fresh chives, chopped
For the Cornets: In the bowl of a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, softened butter, salt, and egg whites until completely incorporated and smooth and without any lumps. Transfer the batter to a smaller container, as it will be easier to work with.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make a 4-inch hollow circular stencil. Place silicon baking mat on the counter (it is easier to work on the Silpat before it is put on the sheet pan). Place the stencil in one corner of the sheet and, holding the stencil flat against the silicon mat, scoop some of the batter onto the back of an offset spatula and spread it in an even layer over the stencil. Then run the spatula over the entire stencil to remove any excess batter. After baking the first batch of cornets, you will be able to judge the correct thickness. You may need a little more or less batter to adjust the thickness of the cornets.
There should not be any holes in the batter. Lift the stencil and repeat the process to make as many rounds as you have molds or to fill the silicon mat, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cornets. Sprinkle each cornet with a pinch of black sesame seeds.
Place the silicon mat on a heavy baking sheet and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the batter is set and you see it rippling from the heat. The cornets may have browned in some areas, but they will not be evenly browned at this point.
Open the oven door and place the baking sheet on the door. This will help keep the cornets warm as you roll them and prevent them from becoming too stiff to roll. Flip a cornet over on the sheet pan, sesame seed side down and place 4-1/2 inch cornet mold at the bottom of the round. If you are right-handed, you will want the pointed end on your left and the open end on your right. The tip of the mold should touch the lower left edge (at about 7 o'clock on a clock face) of the cornet.
Fold the bottom of the cornet and around the mold; it should remain on the sheet pan as you roll. Leave the cornet wrapped around the mold and continue to roll the cornets around molds; as you proceed, arrange the rolled cornets, seams side down, on the sheet pan so they lean against each other, to prevent from rolling.
When all the cornets are rolled, return them to the oven shelf, close the door, and bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes to set the seams and color the cornets a golden brown. If the color is uneven, stand the cornets on end for a minute or so more, until the color is even. Remove the cornets from the oven and allow to cool just slightly, 30 seconds or so.
Gently remove the cornets from the molds and cool for several minutes on paper towels. Remove the silicon from the baking sheet, wipe the excess butter from it, and allow it to cool down before spreading the next batch. Store the cornets for up to 2 days (for maximum flavor) in an airtight container.
For Salmon Tartare: With a sharp knife, finely mince the salmon fillet (do not use a food processor, as it would damage the texture of the fish) and place it in a small bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients and taste for seasoning. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the tartare for at least 30 minutes, or up to 12 hours.
For Sweet Red Onion Crme Fraiche: Place the red onions in a small strainer and rinse them under cold water for several seconds. Dry them on paper towels. In a small metal bowl, whisk the creme fraiche for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until it holds soft peaks when you lift the whisk. Fold in the chopped onions and season to taste with the salt and white pepper. Transfer the onion cream to a container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve of for up to 6 hours.
To Complete: Fill just the top 1/2 inch of each cornet with onion cream, leaving the bottom of the cone empty. (This is easily done using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip or with the tip of a small knife.) Spoon about 1-1/2 teaspoons of the tartare over the onion cream and mold it into a dome resembling a scoop of ice cream. Sprinkle with chives to garnish.