Have you ever had Kobe beef? The real deal, straight from Japan, beer drinking, Sake massaged KOBE BEEF? If you answered “yes” to this question, you’ll have no problem with this one:

“If someone is giving me $250 to create a fabulous meal from starting ingredients of my choice, what should I make?”

Follow up:

As some of you may recall from the Italian Black Truffle Post, earlier this year my blogging idol Joepastry demonstrated a lovely panna cotta recipe, which spawned a series of emails between the two of us. When perfectly prepared, a silky panna cotta made with farm fresh cream is one of the most pleasurable indulgences I’ve come to enjoy thus far in my culinary adventures. I thought to myself, what would compliment this velvety delciousness and take it to a whole new level? How about champagne?

Panna Cotta

Dear Joe,

I saw the panna cotta post. I was thinking about trying to create one with champagne and garnish it with caviar, do you think I am capable of getting this to work?

Thanks,
Nick

PS If you help me and it does work I will publicly claim that I invented the dish on my own and completely bypass giving you any credit where deserved.

RE: Panna Cotta

Dear Nick,

I think that could work. I would up the gelatin to make up for the thinness of the champagne. Why don’t you serve it with some Kobe beef and maybe throw in a couple of shaved black truffles while you’re at it? Please stop emailing me, or I will get the restraining order we discussed when you “jokingly” told me you were going to show up at my house and use my outdoor brick oven while I’m asleep.

Joe

Thanks Joe, I think that’s exactly what I will do.

Enter Foodbuzz. For those of you who don’t know, Foodbuzz is an advertising outfit out of San Francisco who target food and food related blogs and their readers. Once a month, they run a “contest” where they solicit proposals from the ~8000 blogs they advertise on, to create a meal of their choosing. They accept 24 and generously dole out a $250 budget to each. Needless to say, this month, they chose us. Without further ado, lets get on to the dishes. We’ll start with the Panna Cotta, as it has to set overnight. Also, I should note here that I had originally planned on turning these out and serving them with a chocolate ganache. Unfortunately I did not fully heed the advice of Mr. Pastry above, and they were not “set” enough to turn out nicely. On the upside, the texture was wonderful, however, I will be providing the recipe of “what I should’ve done” instead of “what I actually did” for a firmer final product. I had originally planned on using a rose champagne, but thought better of it as it would have in all likelihood made the dessert too sweet.

Step 1: Pour yourself a glass of champagne. We’re only going to need a ~1.5 cups for the dessert, so there is no need to let the rest of the bubbly go to waste.

Champagne Panna Cotta recipe by Nick from www.imafoodblog.com. Makes 6 servings.

  • 2 1/3rd cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 6-7 large strawberries + more for garnish
  • 1.5 cups of quality champagne + more for serving with the dessert
  • 5 sheets “Gold” strength leaf gelatin (.5 oz)*
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 oz Ossetra Caviar

*Generally speaking about 7 grams of gelatin will set 500ml (about 2 cups)of liquid. Here we are using 14 grams to set a little more than 4 cups. If you are dead set on turning these out it might be wise to use an additional sheet or even two, as alcohol has a tendency to reduce the setting power of gelatin.

Cut the vanilla bean with the tip of a sharp knife by making a long slice the length of the pod. Scraping out the seeds with the tip of your knife. Here I used 2 vanilla beans - I should’ve stuck with 1. They are extremely fragrant and in my opinion the final product would’ve been better had this flavor been more subtle. Yes, I am aware that I could’ve used a more manly colored cutting board. Shut up!

Whisk together the cream and sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat. The goal here is to have the heat high enough to scald the cream (while whisking) concurrently as we finish prepping the rest of the ingredients. Remove the gelatin from the packaging.

Bloom the sheets in a small bit of warm water. Combine buttermilk and strawberries (greens removed) in a liquid measuring cup. Fill with champagne to about the 2 cup line. NOTE: You will have to wait a minute for the bubbles to settle to get an accurate reading.

Pop it all into the blender and let her rip. NOTE: If you haven’t used your blender in a while, make sure that all of the seals/pieces are screwed together tightly, lest a sticky, delicious mixture of strawberries and champagne should leak out of the bottom all over your counter and floor.

Add this to the scalded cream, bring back to a simmer for a minute, stir in the gelatin and remove from the heat. Feel free to line the bottom of your ramekins/cups/whatever container you picked to shape the desert, with sliced strawberries for a garnish.

Pour the whole mixture through a strainer to remove any miscellaneous large vanilla seeds and/or pieces of curdled cream then ladle into containers. Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, and preferably overnight. To serve, heat briefly in warm water and turn out onto a cold plate (or don’t) and garnish with a sliced strawberry and caviar.

… and now we move on to the salad. Two of the ingredients in this salad are not easy to get one’s hands on. Specifically, I was lucky enough to find fresh Kobe beef at my butcher and got an awesome hookup on the summer black truffles from D’Artagnan. If you want a small puddle of drool on your keyboard, check out the offerings on their website. With ingredients this fresh and of such a high quality, I tried to do as little to them as possible. Here is what you will need to replicate this awesome, as in best I’ve ever had, “salad":

Kobe Beef Carpaccio and Shaved Black Truffle Salad by Nick from www.imafoodblog.com. Serves 6.

  • 11 oz of Kobe beef (sliced per instructions below)
  • bunch radishes, cleaned and sliced
  • arugula
  • Fresh whole black Italian Summer Truffles (approx. .75 oz)
  • Lemon curls for garnish

For the truffle vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar (best you have)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (best you have)
  • 1 small shallot
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • black truffle shavings

Line a large rectangular plate with slices of Kobe beef. In a mixing bowl, add all of the vinaigrette ingredients together and whisk to combine, add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the cleaned arugula and radish slices in the dressing and plate in the center of the kobe beef slices. Shave fresh truffles over the entire plate, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Here is an individual serving:

To slice the Kobe beef, remember to work quickly as the heat from your hands is enough to melt the intramuscular fat that makes this particular cut so melt-in-your-mouth-tender. Take your sharpest, longest, thinest blade, and in long, smooth slices cut the beef as thin as possible. Here I am using a:
Image from Amazon
Wusthof Classic 12 in. Salmon Slicing Knife, Hollow which is absolutely the perfect tool for this job (and for, as you have probably figured out from the name, thinly slicing cured salmon, read: lox, gravalax, etc.) Note the gender-neutral cutting board usage here. In a perfect world, my cutting board would have crimson flaming motorcycles on one side and a team photograph of the USC football cheerleaders topless on the reverse. We’re gonna settle for “matte” here.

I was extremely pleased with how thinly I was able to get them (this time). I have failed miserably at this in the past and can only offer this advice if it doesn’t work out: “Try, Try again” - hopefully not on $130/lb Kobe beef, though.

Overall I could not have been more pleased with both the “salad” and the dessert (though when I make it again I will use the modifications noted above). The crunchy radishes and truffle slices were a perfect contrast to the tender, richness of the Kobe beef. The earthiness that only a fresh truffle can supply worked well with the “snap” of the lemon vinaigrette and peppery arugula, combined they cut the fattiness of the beef superbly.

As for the dessert, save not being turnout-able, the sweet strawberries and dry champagne flavor profile lifted the creamy texture of the panna cotta to another level entirely. The caviar, while extravagant, was far from extraneous. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that not only did it contribute in the standard sweet vs. salty contrast, but that the subtle hint of fishiness was a welcome compliment to the strawberry and champagne combination.

For those of you keeping count, I blew my budget, but it was totally worth it. Thank you Foodbuzz for giving me the opportunity to try something amazing that I probably never would’ve done without your assistance, and thank you, Joepastry for not (yet) calling the cops on me.