Combining ingredients and creating something new and tasty is difficult. On the one hand we have known combinations (tomatoes and basil, duck and thyme, macaroni with ham and cheese), on the other hand we want to be surprised by new combinations. Unfortunately many chefs don’t really have the required creative talent but they serve their unlikely combinations (gnocchi with kale, piccalilli, smoked oyster and black pudding) anyway.
Antonio Carluccio‘s combination of fresh oysters with a white wine sabayon and white truffle is spectacular. The combination of the distinct aroma of the white truffle with the oyster is intriguing. The sabayon brings everything together in terms of taste, consistency and structure. And just to show you how clever Carluccio’s combination is: the sabayon in itself is not pleasant.
Carluccio uses white truffles in his recipe, but given the costs we decided to go for the more affordable bianchetto. This truffle is available from mid January to the end of April, that’s why it is also called March truffle (marzuolo). Maybe less subtle, but the result is nevertheless wonderful.
The recipe (Ostriche con zabaglione e tartufo bianco) can be found in his Complete Mushroom Book. Best to use oysters with a mineral flavour and a mild brininess. Definitely not creamy oysters, given the richness of the sabayon.
With such a great dish you many want to drink a glass of Chablis or Champagne. We enjoyed a glass of Crémant de Bourgogne, produced by Vitteaut-Alberti. A refined wine, soft and with delicate fruit. The bubbles are small and pleasant.
Mai Take (Hen of the Woods) is originally a mushroom from Japan and China. The Mai Take is known as a medicinal mushroom (but we’re not sure what it is supposed to cure; we just love the texture and the taste!). It can be wild or cultivated. One of our favourites is a salad with Mai Take, Shrimp, Crab, Coquilles St Jacques, Coriander, Dill and Parsley, created byAntonio Carluccioand published in 2003 in the Complete Mushroom Book. Go to your local bookstore and buy it! The book has a wealth of wonderful, simple recipes.
Bavette is beef from the flank. Other names are Flap Meat, Sirloin Tip and maybe Hanger Meat. Bavette (and other meat from the flank) is often used for stewing and poaching. Not many know it is actually very tasty and great when eaten saignant. Plus it’s not expensive at all. It is however hard to find because most butchers will use it for stews and assume their customers are not interested in it. If your butcher is a real butcher (so one that buys a complete animal and not just vacuumed bits) it’s a matter of asking. Thyme is an essential element in the dish because it brings Bavette and Mai Take together. It’s not just a bridge between the two, it envelopes them.
We enjoyed our bavette with a glass of Verdarail, a rich wine from the south of France, with lots of red and black fruits. Spicy. A wine with a long finish and well-integrated tannins.
What You Need
100 gram Mai Take
What You Do
We’re not the world greatest carnivores. Bavette has an intense taste, so we would recommend 100 grams per person maximum. The bavette must be room temperature. So take it out of the refrigerator let’s say 2 hours in advance. Heat a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil. Fry as you would do a normal steak, but significantly longer. We fried our 214 gram of bavette for maybe 6 minutes. Agreed, you think your lovely bavette will be overcooked, but it will be fine. Ad some butter towards the end to coat the meat. Arroser and turn frequently. Check the firmness of the beef. As soon as you feel it becomes firmer, transfer to a plate and allow to rest for 15 minutes. The Mai Take need a few minutes only. Fry them gently in the same pan. You may want to add some of the juices of the bavette. Slice the bavette and serve with the Mai Take, a generous amount of fresh thyme and black pepper.
This year we celebrate 20 years of Carluccio’s Caffè. Over 80 restaurants in the UK to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner and enjoy the food that Antonio Carluccio loved. With their integrated food shop the Caffè’s make the Italian gastronomy available to all. Antonio Carluccio was chef, author and ambassador of Italian Food. His many books will continue to be an inspiration.
He once mentioned that white truffles were his luxury item. In The Complete Mushroom Book (published in 2001) he included a wonderful recipe for Oysters with Zabaglione and White Truffle. The oysters are served with a zabaglione made from butter, white wine, egg yolks and truffle oil with thinly sliced white truffle on top of the sauce. The dish is a true miracle because of the umami, the saltiness and the earthiness; its exquisiteness and mouthcoating feel in combination with the dryness of the oysters.
We prepared the dish with fresh Bianchetti truffles. A bit more outspoken than the white Alba truffle, but very, very nice in this dish. We used our favourite île de Ré oysters because they are lean and fresh (not creamy).
Remember Bianchetti truffles are harvested and sold between January 15th and April 30th, so don’t wait too long!
Sadly Antonio Carluccio passed away this week on Wednesday November 8th 2017. To us he has been a true inspiration, especially when it comes to mushrooms. Thanks to him we started to explore a wide variety of mushrooms, such as Ceaser’s mushrooms and Pied Blue. His books on mushrooms showed us the world beyond the classics mushroom recipes. Every year we prepare his oysters with sabayon and white truffle. Pure magic.
Carluccio also showed us that you need to be a chef to create Michelin star worthy food, and that you need to be a decent cook to create tasty and healthy daily food. A combination of olives, pancetta, cheese, artichokes and a glass of red wine is a great way to start your meal and will only take you a bit of shopping and 5 minutes to present the food. And reading his books: you can learn how to be a decent cook.
He said his motto was “mof mof” – minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour. No doubt a lot of hard work is required to reach that level, but let us assure you: it’s a great motto for daily cooking.