Chadzilla is a food blog written by chef Chad Galiano that I always find inspiring. When he announced that he would be hosting round #8 of TGRWT(They Go Really Well Together) and put white chocolate and caviar on the table, I knew that I wanted to play along.
To my knowledge, Heston Blumenthal was the first to pair caviar with white chocolate. I recall reading an article which appeared in the Guardian back in 2002 and being shocked by the combination, but intuitively, I knew that it would work; salty and briny with a sweet, milky finish. Since then, many chefs have adapted this pairing and put their own spin on it. Recently, I sampled Will Goldfarbs version--Indonesian vanilla ice cream with American Sturgeon caviar and chocolate bits at Dessert Studio at Michel Cluizel--and they did indeed go really well together.
Blumenthals version calls for a dollop of caviar atop a thin white chocolate disc and suggests that the whole thing be placed on the tongue and allowed to melt. I don't know about anyone else, but once food enters my mouth, it must be chewed. And chew I did, and spoiled the experience.
For my version, I wanted to soften the bite of the white chocolate without losing the mouthfeel. I combined creme fraiche (to tame the sweetness) with white chocolate in a 1:2 ratio to create a firm ganache that could be molded into a caviar-filled truffle. Molding the ganache without crushing the caviar was a challenge. Using demi-sphere silicone molds that were filled with the fluid ganache, frozen, hollowed, filled with the caviar, than gently pressed and blended together was a bit tedious, but produced the product that I was looking for. Now I could enjoy the sensation of biting through the soft, creamy shell, the release of delicate pearls spilling out onto the tongue, the play of crunch and melt, sweet and salty--the familiar taste of childhood Easter bunnies with x-rated caviar.
The only thing that could heighten the experience, I decided, would be the addition of a dry, crisp element. Potato chips came to mind, and I taste-tripped back to a dessert that I had at WD-50, in which Alex Stupak studded a flexible white chocolate ganache ribbon with sweetened, dehydrated potato shards. He served this with a white beer ice cream, in which the element of bitterness was mind blowing; a revelation. The whole combination bordered on culinary genius except for the indiscernible flavor of potato in the shards. I really wanted to taste their earthiness with the white chocolate, so I fried up some thin slices of potato, then dehydrated them until they were crisp and sprinkled them with sea salt. Nibbling on these between bites of the truffle added another dimension to the experience. But I have never been one to leave well enough alone...
When considering the combination of caviar, creme fraiche, and potatoes, it was not a leap to add vodka to the equation. I could have just poured it into a shot glass, but the fingerling potatoes were too perfect in size and shape to not utilize them as a vessel. A little dusting of chopped dill and I knew thaat it was done.
Recently, I had a conversation with a chef friend about chocolate pairings. When I mentioned this combination, I saw a look of panic flicker over her face. I assured her that it is good and cited some examples. She wasn't convinced and asked,"What's next...chocolate and blue cheese?" I thought about that for a minute and could only smile while I silently thanked her.