Laurel, the first book from restaurateur and Top Chef winner Nicholas Elmi, promises to be as engrossing and delicious as its restaurant namesake, a culinary stronghold in South Philly.
Elmi’s French background and training informed Laurel from the start, but Laurel is a true American restaurant with a modern feel. The acclaimed nine-course tasting menu is unmatched in Philadelphia. Elmi does seasonality just right.
- Fall brings Apple-Yuzu Consommé, Marinated Trout Roe, and Bitter Greens
- Winter serves up Bourbon-Glazed Grilled Lobster, Crunchy Grains, and Apple Blossom
- Spring is evidenced by Black Sea Bass, Peas, and Rhubarb
- Summer is distilled in Marigold-Compressed Kohlrabi, Buckwheat, and Cured Egg
The book is also a letter of gratitude to the restaurant’s suppliers, whose work colours every dish they serve. Each chapter is a full nine-course tasting menu with accompanying cocktail, and almost as delicious on the page as the meal itself.
White Chocolate Pudding, Cocoa Crumble, Strawberries
I’m not a fan of white chocolate. But I love caramelized white chocolate, which has a whole other flavour profile. It’s been following me around since 2012. At Rittenhouse Tavern, it came in the form of a frozen caramelized white chocolate panna cotta. On the finale of my season of Top Chef, in Hawaii, it evolved into a pudding set with agar and jewelled with tropical fruits.
When we opened Laurel, it was one of the first desserts to go on the menu (back when we had an à la carte menu), not just because it’s delicious but because of our kitchen constraints. We don’t have the space to pre-plate thirty desserts, chill them in the fridge, and garnish them à la minute. (We don’t have the space to do that for even ten desserts.) So we calibrated the balance of custard to chocolate to create a pudding that will hold its texture in a pastry bag, one that we constantly pull in and out of the fridge to pipe out desserts to order.
The order of this recipe is important. Sometimes strawberry season here is as short as two weeks, so we make as many different strawberry things for as long as we can. The various strawberry garnishes can be prepped in advance, as can the super-easy chocolate crumble you will want to put over everything from now on. But when you’re ready for the pudding, dial-up your concentration and get all the ingredients mise-d out before you start.
The process goes fast, and you have to monitor the temperatures of the chocolate and the custard. If the former gets too cool, it will seize up. If the latter gets too hot, the sugar will turn it into a brick. You should be caramelizing the chocolate while the custard is coming up to temperature, or enlist a partner to make one component while you make the other. They won’t regret it when it’s time to taste the finished product.
PICKLED GREEN STRAWBERRIES
1 cup/250 g Champagne vinegar
⅔ cup/118 g granulated sugar
1 ½ cups/343 g water
1 pound/454 g large green strawberries, stemmed
Combine the vinegar, sugar, and water in a saucepot, and warm over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is melted. Cool completely. Cover the strawberries with the liquid in a nonreactive airtight container. Fit with a tight lid, and leave in a cool, dry spot for at least 2 weeks.
FERMENTED GREEN STRAWBERRIES
1 pound/454 g green strawberries
1 tablespoon/13.5 g Kosher salt
Wash the berries well in cold water, and pat dry. Purée the berries in a blender with the salt, and transfer to a medium vacuum bag. Seal on high. Leave at room temperature for 3 days or until the bag puffs. Keep the purée in the bag and reserve cold.
20 strawberries, stemmed
Slice the strawberries 1 ⁄4 inch/6 mm thick, and arrange them on a dehydrating tray that’s been misted with nonstick spray. Dehydrate for 12 hours at 125°F or until crisp. Reserve at room temperature.
WHITE CHOCOLATE PUDDING
7 sheets silver gelatin
10 ounces/300 g egg yolk
1 teaspoon/8 g Kosher salt
10 ounces/300 g granulated sugar
2 pounds/1,000 g white chocolate
24 ounces/720 g heavy whipping cream
36 ounces/1,080 g whole milk
Soak the gelatin in cold water until soft. Whip the yolks, salt, and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment for 5 minutes or until the eggs are pale and fall off the whisk in ribbons.
Cook the white chocolate in a large pot over medium heat, stirring, until it turns a deep caramel colour, about 10 minutes.
While the chocolate is caramelizing, bring the cream and milk to a simmer in a medium pot. Slowly temper some of the warm dairy into the eggs on low speed, then pour the egg mixture into the pot. Heat the mixture to 186°F while continuously whisking to make a custard.
Transfer the caramelized white chocolate to a medium bowl. Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatin, and add the gelatin to the chocolate. Slowly add the hot custard. Gently stir the ingredients together with a rubber or silicone spatula, thenpurée with an immersion blender. Pass the pudding through a chinois into a medium bowl. Set the bowl over a large bowl of ice to chill the pudding. When chilled, transfer to a nonreactive airtight container, and refrigerate until fully set, about 6 hours.
2 cups/450 g strawberries, stemmed
3 ounces/85 g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon/3 g malic acid
2 teaspoons/5.5 g agar-agar
Season the berries in a bowl with the sugar and malic acid, cover, and rest at room temperature for
2 hours. Purée the strawberries and their liquid with the agar in a blender. Transfer the purée to a medium pot, and bring to a simmer while continually whisking. Cool completely, and allow to set in the fridge. Pure and reserve in a plastic squeeze bottle at room temperature.
7 ounces/200 g cocoa powder
7 ounces/200 g granulated sugar
3.5 ounces/100 g Gluten-Free Flour (see recipe at bottom) or all-purpose flour
5 ounces/150 g melted unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, and flour, and sift. Slowly add the butter until the mixture clumps when squeezed together but still falls apart. Spread the mixture over a sheet tray lined with a silicone baking mat, and bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until dry and firm. Remove thecrumble from the oven, allow to cool, and break apart into fine crumbs. Reserve in a cool, dry place.
2 large strawberries
Slice the fresh strawberries and 2 pickled green strawberries into thin rounds, and then cut those rounds into quarters. Spoon 4 ounces/113 g of the pudding into the bottom of a tall bowl (for a playful touch, use a bowl that looks like a flower pot), and generously cover the pudding with the crumble. Add 15 dots of strawberry purée and 7 dots of fermented green strawberry mash. Garnish with 6 pieces each of fresh and pickled green strawberries, 6 pieces of dehydrated strawberry, and 6 violas. Repeat for remaining portions.
MAKES 41⁄2 POUNDS/2 KG
2.2 pounds/1,000 g brown rice flour
1.8 pounds/800 g white rice flour
7 ounces/200 g tapioca flour
1 ounce/26 g xanthan gum
Whisk all the ingredients together. Transfer to a nonreactive container, and store in a cool, dry place.
Reprinted with permission from LAUREL © 2019 by Nicholas Elmi and Adam Erace, Running Press.