Monday, September 17, 2007
Verjus sorbet and poached peach
I'm working backwards here, starting with dessert, but as with meal planning, so with meal descriptions. This is the verjus sorbet and poached peach dessert from the French Laundry cookbook. The split in the peach is accidental (I forgot I was cutting the peach into thirds and not halves), but I think the rest of it looks about right.
Here's the thing about poached fruit, I like it, but I don't love it. But we already had these large peaches, and I wanted to make something seasonal, especially since the days are growing shorter and the mornings are chillier and it's only a matter of time before the summer fruit disappears and daylight savings time ends. And, I was very curious about the sorbet.
First I looked for verjus at Monterey Market. The guy (I think his name is Marty? I can't remember now) who stocks the vinegars said they didn't carry it, but that lately he's been getting more requests and is going to look into getting some. Next I stopped in at Magnani, hoping that they might carry it, but alas they did not, and then at the Coffee and Cheese shop, where my favorite woman there told me they didn't have it either.
Walking back, I called Nancy, who suggested the Pasta Shop down on Fourth Street. I called down there, and they had it! In fact, they had two kinds, one was a Sangiovese verjus and the other (the one I bought) was the regular kind.
From the back of the bottle and the introduction to the recipe, I've discovered the verjus was a Roman invention that was popular in French kitchens in the 14th and 15th centuries. Made from unripened white grapes, verjus is an acidulant like vinegar or lemon juice, but milder than either, and doesn't mask the flavors of the dish that it's added to.
The taste is singular. It's tart and particularly fruity but not sweet at all, a grape flavor stripped of sugar. It was really a bit of an object lesson, because after tasting it, I found it suddenly easier to see where the complexity in wine comes from. It has an appealing scent; if there were a verjus perfume, I would consider wearing it.
The sorbet was simply verjus and corn syrup chilled then processed in the ice cream maker. The result was a slightly tart, perfumy, delicate ice. And in appearance it slightly resembled a cloud. Speaking of which, I found a recipe for a French macaroon type cookie nicknamed "little clouds." Expect to hear more about that one soon.