Introduction: Salmon Tartare Coronets
A spiffy appetizer from the French Laundry cookbook, with details.
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Step 1: Prepare Coronet Forms
To properly roll the cookies into their ice cream cone shapes, you'll need a conic form that can withstand some time in a 400F oven.
The cookbook suggests a #35 4 1/2" coronet mold, but since this was a one-off for a French Laundry themed party we decided to make our own out of paper.
After some rummaging, I found a 4" diameter circular object for tracing (the base of a pitcher) and made some circles on a manila folder. I also made one on a sheet of glossy paper, the thick stock used as the cover of an expensive yuppie magazine we magically get for free. Note that I'm NOT putting the glossy stuff into the oven for fear of toxic bleeding or outgassing; that's what the manila folder is for.
Draw another circle on the glossy paper ~1/2" outside the original circle, and add a tab. Now cut around the outside circle and inside of the 4" circle to make a 4" diameter stencil.
Cut out the manila circles; I used 5. These need to be shaped into cones for use as your forms, so you've got to get them nice and tight. I wanted to staple them into position, but they're too small to successfully staple. We also nixed glue, tape, and rubber bands as unable to stand up to oven conditions. Pinning sounded good in theory, but probably would have ended in tears. I finally ended up sewing them in place, which was surprisingly fast. The key is to pass the thread directly THROUGH the cone, then wrap around the flap as you prepare for your next pass. After three or so stabs across the cone, exit next to the original knot (you should have made a BIG knot, and left an inch or so of tail) and tie off with the tail. These worked beautifully, and looked sort of spooky.
Step 2: Prepare Coronet Batter
1/4c + 3T all-purpose flou
1T + 1t sugar
1t kosher salt
8T (1 stick) unsalted butter, soft but still cool
2 large egg whites, cold
2T black sesame seeds
Mix flour, sugar, and salt together. Separately, whisk butter until it's completely smooth; I used my Kitchenaid with the whisk attachment. Add egg whites to the dry ingredients, and mix thoroughly with a stiff spatula. Dump the egg mixture into the butter, and whisk until batter is creamy and without lumps.
I don't have a picture of the bowl of pasty goo, so here's some of it in the stencil.
Step 3: Stencil Onto Silpat
Get out your Silpat. If you don't have one, head to any kitchen store and shell out $15. Once you have a Silpat you'll find a million uses for it.
Place the stencil on the Silpat, and scoop some batter into the center. Use the sharp-edged spatula of your choice to spread the batter in an even layer over the stencil; scoop off any extra. If it's grossly uneven you'll get localized browning/burning. Don't leave any holes. Lift stencil and repeat. I did five coronets per sheet, which seemed like plenty. Also, I only had the patience to sew five molds- don't lay down more coronets than you have molds.
Sprinkle black sesame seeds over the top of each coronet.
Step 4: Cook and Roll Coronets
Put the Silpat on a baking sheet, and transfer to your preheated 400F oven. Cook for 4-6 minutes, until the batter is just set and you can see the batter ripple a bit. They'll start sliding around on little melted-butter trails if your baking sheet isn't entirely flat, but this is easily fixable.
Pull the sheet out and sit it on the open oven door to keep warm while you work. Hold the top of your paper mold with your off hand, and use a tool to manipulate the coronet with your dominant hand. Be careful- the coronet is hot and greasy; you REALLY don't want to touch it directly. Roll the coronet around the mold as tightly as you can, and finish with the seam side down. Roll the other coronets and place them up against each other to prevent unrolling.
Pop the sheet of rolled coronets back into the oven for 3-4 minutes to set the seams and let them color up a bit. The French Laundry seems to make coronets that are entirely golden-brown, but I took mine out earlier for fear of burning. This worked just fine.
Let the coronets cool/solidify on paper towels for a few minutes before removing the paper forms.
Step 5: Prepare Creme Fraiche
1T finely minced red onions
1/2c creme fraiche
1/4t kosher salt, or to taste
freshly ground white pepper to taste
Rinse red onions in a sieve under cold water, then dry on paper towels. Whisk creme fraiche in a small metal bowl for 30sec-1minute, or until it holds soft peaks when you lift the whisk. Fold in onions, then season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 6 hours.
I never got the creme fraiche to reach soft peaks, so shoved it in the fridge and hoped for the best. It gets a bit more solid as it chills, but... not a lot. Also, wash more than 1T onions as some get lost in the sieve; measure the 1T off of the paper towels.
Step 6: Prepare Salmon Tartare
4oz sashimi-grade salmon fillet (belly preferred), skin and any pin bones removed and very finely minced
3/4t extra virgin olive oil
3/4t lemon oil (zest is a potential substitute)
1 1/2t finely minced chives
1 1/2t finely minced shallots
1/2t kosher salt, or to taste
pinch freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
Find a nice big SHARP knife to mince the heck out of the salmon fillet. They claim a food processor would ruin the texture; it would certainly be less fun. Mix in remaining ingredients, then chill for 30 min to 12 hours.
Step 7: Assemble and Eat
Assembly is easy: a dollop of each ingredient, presented like an ice cream cone. They recommend serving them in a lucite holder, but I got lazy and it wouldn't have worked anyway (see below). If you can't get at a laser cutter or machine tools, you could wedge the cones in rock salt, peppercorns, or the like for a snazzy presentation.
First, scoop a bit of the creme fraiche into the top of the coronet. Pipe it in with a pastry bag for bonus points. Apparently if you prepared it properly, it will be thick enough to stick at the top of the cone; mine chose to be too runny for this to work. Thus, the horizontal cone trick: I poured the creme fraiche in, then kept it as close to level as possible while adding the salmon, and served it lying on a plate.
You can use a melonballer to create cute little salmon scoops, or just do it quickly with a small spoon and/or clean fingers. Stick a chive tip out the top of the salmon ball to look extra classy, or possibly more like a Teletubby. Eat immediately if not sooner.
Either way, they were fantastically tasty. If I do this again, I'd probably skip the cones and just plop the half-baked coronet rounds into mini-muffin pans to make non-leaky shells to hold my ingredients. I'd probably substitute a mix of cream cheese with either sour cream or yogurt for the creme fraiche, as it's a lot cheaper, and it mainly provides a fatty foil for the salmon. Could be made lower-fat if you care about these things.
Certainly worthy of a repeat, though.
This made approximately 20 coronets.