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The Frugal Foodie: 2941’s Anthony Chavez
Satisfying your sweet tooth doesn’t have to sour your budget. 2941’s pastry chef, Anthony Chavez, shows us how to whip up a dessert menu for six for less than $50.
Over a recent long lunch, a friend asked what kind of dessert I’d serve with Sauternes, a sweet white wine. This led to a discussion about what desserts we’d pair with port, Champagne, and other dessert wines. Ultimately, though, the answer was “I don’t know,” which is how I ended up at the grocery store with 2941’s pastry chef, Anthony Chavez.
For this Frugal Foodie challenge, I asked Chavez to make desserts that could be paired with Sauternes, port, and Champagne. The three desserts would have to feed six and, not including standard pantry items and the wine, cost less than $50.
At the grocery store, Chavez studied the bulk aisle, buying the exact amounts of almonds, popcorn, and dried apricots that he needed. In the produce aisle, he picked the stems and leaves off satsuma mandarin oranges so they wouldn’t add to the weight and cost. He splurged on vanilla beans, thick Icelandic yogurt, and European-style salted butter. The bill rang up to $48.62.
At my apartment, Chavez unpacked a few tools—flexible molds and a piping bag—and got to work. He whipped egg yolks and sugar until they reached a pudding-like consistency for a honey custard. He slowly whisked egg whites and sugar until they formed an airy mixture for meringues. He juiced the oranges, used my circa-1984 popcorn machine to pop some kernels, and piped chocolate batter into small molds.
In the end, Chavez served a honey-yogurt custard with a baklava-inspired pastry to go with the Sauternes, a wine with nice honey flavors. For the Champagne, he dished up a floating island—a soft meringue that swam in a pool of mandarin juice and Champagne and was topped with caramel popcorn. And to go with the port, he made chocolate bouchons, small cakes in the shape of a Champagne cork.
Turns out our question led to delicious results.
1 sheet phyllo dough
4 tablespoons melted butter
3 teaspoons sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for caramelizing the phyllo dough
3 tablespoons honey, plus 2 tablespoons for caramelizing the phyllo dough
1 teaspoon gelatin powder
5 teaspoons water
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
1⁄3 cup egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split
1⁄3 cup plain yogurt (Chavez uses the thick Icelandic variety)
½ cup dried apricots, diced
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Caramelize the phyllo dough:
Brush half of the phyllo with melted butter and sprinkle with some of the tablespoon of sugar. Fold the dough in half and repeat with more melted butter and sugar. Fold in half once again and brush with melted butter and sprinkle the remaining sugar. Cut the dough into 6 pieces and shape each into a loose ball (see photo).
Place the dough onto a baking pan and bake until golden brown. Remove from the oven and drizzle with the 2 tablespoons of honey. Set aside.
Make the custard:
Soak the gelatin in the water. In a medium pot, combine the heavy cream, egg yolks, honey, sugar, and vanilla. Stir the mixture over low heat until it thickens. Stir in the gelatin and yogurt.
Divide the custard among 6 ramekins and sprinkle with the dried apricots.
Chill in the refrigerator until the custard has set.
Serve with caramelized phyllo.
2¼ tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1½ tablespoons almonds
2½ tablespoons cake flour
2½ tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 vanilla bean, seeded (discard the pod)
¼ cup egg whites
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a pot set over medium heat, brown the butter, swirling the pot as the butter cooks. Keep warm.
In a food processor, combine the confectioner’s sugar, almonds, cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and vanilla. Process until the mixture is combined and the almonds are ground. Place the mixture in a mixing bowl. Blend in the brown butter followed by the egg whites. Mix just until combined.
Pipe the batter into flexible bouchon molds. Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Floating Island With Mandarin Jus and Caramelized Popcorn
2 satsuma mandarin oranges
½ cup mandarin-orange juice
¼ cup Champagne
½ vanilla bean, seeded (discard the pod)
1⁄3 cup egg whites
3 tablespoons sugar plus 2 cups sugar for popcorn
14 tablespoons butter
1 bag microwave popcorn
Peel and remove the pith from the mandarin oranges, then cut them into segments. Set aside.
Make the mandarin-orange jus:
In a medium bowl, combine the mandarin-orange juice, Champagne, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Chill in the refrigerator.
Make the meringues:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and 2 tablespoons of sugar and whip until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Pipe it into dome-shaped flexible molds.
Place the meringues into the oven and bake for 1 minute or until firm. Remove from the oven and cool.
Pop the popcorn in the microwave and set in a large, heatproof bowl.
In a large pot set over low heat, caramelize the 2 cups of sugar. Add the butter and whisk until combined. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir until well combined.
Turn the caramel-coated popcorn onto a sheet pan and let cool. When the popcorn is cool, chop it into small pieces.
Unmold the baked meringues and sprinkle the popcorn on top of each meringue.
Assemble the floating islands:
Place each meringue in a bowl and garnish with the mandarin segments and mandarin jus.
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